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story.lead_photo.caption Searcy High School juniors Michael Kidd, left, and Anna-Catherine King set up a titration experiment. Kidd and King recently competed in the Chemistry Olympiad at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. King took first place, while Kidd won second. - Photo by Mark Buffalo

Searcy High School juniors Anna-Catherine King and Michael Kidd were among 80 students from around the state to compete in the Chemistry Olympiad, taking home first- and second-place honors, respectively.

The test took place last month at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where King and Kidd will return this month for the national exam. They also are invited to an awards banquet April 22 at UALR.

According to the American Chemical Society, which has sponsored the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad since 1984, the program is a chemistry competition for high school students.

“The purpose of the competition is to stimulate young people to achieve excellence in chemistry,” the organization’s website states.

The Searcy students’ chemistry teacher, Brandon Renuard, said if they do well enough on the National Chemistry Olympiad, they will travel to Washington, D.C., for a training camp to prepare for and take the International Chemistry Olympiad in Thailand.

“They are both amazing students,” Renuard said. “They can be fairly quiet, especially Anna-Catherine, but she is also very competitive. Michael is a little more talkative and is likely to ask interesting, thought-provoking questions pertaining to math and science.”

The students will also take the Advanced Placement chemistry and the AP environmental-science exams in May, Renuard said.

“They are not enrolled in an environmental-science course, but I have been coaching them for that test as well. I fully expect them to pass both AP exams.”

King realized her interest in science last year during her pre-AP chemistry course, she said.

“I like applying math to solve problems and learning things. I like how new the knowledge was.”

She most looks forward to the lab practical section at the national Olympiad exam on April 22.

“It will be different from any other I’ve taken, and I like a challenge,” she said.

When she’s not applying her math or science skills, King said, she enjoys history, Spanish, and her favorite class is English. After high school, she said, she plans to attend the honors college at the University of Arkansas and major in psychology with a minor in Spanish.

Kidd said he discovered his interest in science during his physical-science class his freshman year.

“I always enjoyed doing the labs. Particularly, the flame test lab made me really enjoy chemistry,” he said. “By using different compounds, we were able to change the color of flames, and each chemical created a unique color.”

He said he became interested in the Chemistry Olympiad test when Renuard provided his students with a practice version.

“It was just as challenging as the real test, but I scored high in my class,” Kidd said. “I thought that if I could do it again, I would have a good chance of winning. The afternoon before the test, we looked over one from a previous year and analyzed every question until we finally finished, three hours after school ended.”

At the national competition, Kidd said, he also looks forward to the lab practical portion of the test.

“Normally, when I enter the lab, I know exactly what I will be doing. I think it is going to be interesting to go into the lab without a plan or present procedure to follow.”

Kidd also enjoys math in school and plans to pursue an engineering degree in college, he said. In addition to math and science, he enjoys playing chess, he noted, and he has been on the school’s bowling team since he was a freshman.

Wherever he lands in life, Kidd said, he’ll always be grateful for the advantages Searcy High School has provided him.

“Searcy is a great school; there are many classes that you can take based on your interests. When Mr. Renuard teaches, he always tells us extra little pieces of information about the topic. Even though they are unlikely to be on the AP test in May, it is always enjoyable to learn a little fact that few other people would hear.”

King added that having a teacher like Renuard has helped her excel. “He stays after school for review sessions and helps us prepare. He really goes the extra mile.”

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