The joy on their faces was unmistakable, as it should have been, with smartphones aplenty and selfies all around.
When North Harford High beat Harford Christian School last Tuesday in the annual Harford County Envirothon, it was a big upset, perhaps not of biblical proportions, but big nonetheless. Until last week, Harford Christian had won the countywide competition for 10 straight years.
"It feels amazing," Aubrey Williams, a North Harford junior, said. "I almost cried."
Simply put, the Envirothon is an academic competition in the earth sciences. This year's fifth and central topic was agricultural stewardship and conservation planning, with aquatics, forestry, soils and wildlife being the other four topics.
Students spend the day having what they've learned in each of those areas being put to the test.
Much like a sports team, according to Bill Tharpe, district manager for the Harford Soil Conservation District, which is the event's main sponsor, coaches work in advance with their Envirothon team.
"The day of the competition, it is the students only – what they know, what they've learned, they are putting it into practice," Tharpe said. "It is written and hands-on knowledge that's necessary to take that top position."
Harford Christian has excelled in those areas for a decade. They did again last week, too, finishing first in wildlife individual topic and in the written exam that was part of the fifth topic. North Harford, however, excelled in more areas and finished as champions.
"I really liked the experience," Will Eakes, from North Harford, said, adding "and I can't wait to do it next year and compete in the state competition [this year.]" He is the son of Howard Eakes, assistant supervisor for science with Harford County Public Schools, a regular supporter of the Envirothon.
The state competition is June 14-16 in Queen Anne's County.
Who did or didn't win the Envirothon isn't why the event is so vital. It's vital because it awakens some of our young people to the importance of the real world around them and the challenges facing Planet Earth.
Agricultural stewardship and conservation planning to go along with aquatics, forestry, soils and wildlife are essential not just to our way of life, but life period.
The status of our water and our soil and their impact on our forests and soil, though many of us don't focus enough on those topics, control our future.
That's reason enough to be thankful that some of our best and brightest young people are putting their talents toward excelling in those areas. Our futures depend on them and countless others just like them.