Jack Lundt doesn’t always keep his word. In June 2012, in front of close friends and his wife Sandy, as they enjoyed dinner together, he signed a paper napkin promising that he would not coach the Poudre High School National Ocean Sciences Bowl Team for the fourteenth consecutive year.
And then he did. On February 23, Poudre’s five-person team won the regional competition in Boulder, beating out nine teams from several states and qualifying them to compete in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl competition in Milwaukee, Wisc. the weekend of April 20. Out of 25 teams from across the nation, the Poudre High School team earned a spot in the final round of 16 and ended up ninth overall in the national competition.
The National Ocean Sciences Bowl is an academic competition for high school students that tests their knowledge of marine sciences including biology, chemistry, physics and geology.
Winning is nothing new for Lundt. His Ocean Bowl Team has earned first place in regionals 10 out of 14 years and in 2006 they were second in the national competition.
Lundt was peeking through an interior window into a CU classroom when he realized that the 2013 team was ahead in the final round. Since 2006 when he was diagnosed with stress-related high blood pressure, he hasn’t been able to sit in the room as his teams fight their way through round after round of questions that adult observers agree would stump them at least 80 percent of the time.
And why does Lundt, who has been a teacher and coach since 1976 and retired in 2007, continue to give after school and Saturday time to Ocean Bowl, Science Bowl, and Science Olympiad teams?
Because, he says, “I love creating a niche for kids who want to show off what they know. They get as excited as any athlete does before they compete.” Lundt, who has coached cross-country and track, says he uses sports coaching techniques to help his teams achieve success.
Nebraska born and raised in Fort Morgan until seventh grade when he moved to Fort Collins, Lundt is the oldest of three boys all of whom attended Colorado State University and were active in the running scene. Tim, the youngest, a science teacher in Palmer, Alaska, coached his Ocean Bowl team to a second place this year and is taking a Science Bowl team to nationals. Rick is a United Airlines flight attendant.
A biology and chemistry major, Jack studied pre-med subjects for three years before he decided against spending enough years in school to become an MD. “I fell into teaching naturally because of my dad who was a math teacher,” he says.
Lundt and his wife Sandy, who guided Poudre High School as principal for 16 years, met when they were students at Poudre. They started their teaching careers together in Hayden three weeks after they married. Realizing that education was not a priority in the mountain town, they returned to Fort Collins where Jack taught science at Lesher and Sandy began her career as a half-time physical education teacher in Wellington Junior High School.
Jack moved on to Fort Collins High School where he taught chemistry for 12 years. In year seven, when Sandy became principal at Poudre, she persuaded him to “commute” between the two schools in order to fill a gap in an International Baccalaureate program chemistry class. By 1999, he’d had enough of teaching in two places and settled in at Poudre. That same year he discovered Ocean Bowl and added it to his involvement with Science Bowl and the Science Olympiad.
Until the late 1990’s, Lundt and the other bowl coaches in the district gave of their time without compensation. Lundt encouraged the district to pay for the overtime coaches put in, with the goal of increasing participation among district schools. Practice sessions begin in October each school year and increase from once to twice a week as the competitions draw near. Four-to-five-hour Saturday sessions help team members get a feel for what actual events will be like.
Study sessions are based on college level science texts that Lundt obtains by writing grants and “buying the cheapest used copies from Amazon. When I was able to get a new edition of a particularly popular text, I had four kids fighting over it,” Lundt says. “These are kids so eager to learn that they come in after school and weekends to soak up as much as they can.”
During the months of practice, team members read an entire text one chapter at a time, go over study and teacher’s guides, and answer multiple choice questions. Each year when the competition is over, Lundt and the team brainstorm about the questions that were asked and make lists that will be helpful in the future. Every year there is new information to absorb.
This year the kids learned how to work as a team, complementing each other’s strengths. When one team member answers a toss–up question and earns the right to answer a bonus question, the team is allowed to confer for 20 seconds before answering. Halfway through each session, teams are given five minutes to write an essay on a given topic. Lundt says this is the first time he’s ever known two members of a team to write at the same time. “One was right-handed, the other-left-handed, and they worked it out so they could write on one piece of paper at the same time, each producing a paragraph,” Lundt says.
In 1994 Lundt gave up coaching cross country runners, and because of knee problems, was forced to quit running himself. Despite a couple of difficult surgeries, he gets around well enough to enjoy hunting and fishing, both life-long passions. He’s especially proud of an enormous caribou shot in Alaska while visiting his brother.
He and Sandy, who retired in 2009, like spending time in their mountain home up Poudre Canyon and traveling together whenever possible. They have especially fond memories of their trip to the Galapagos Islands.
Will Lundt coach the Poudre Ocean Bowl Team next year? “We’ll see,” he said. “It depends how things turn out and whether or not I have the energy.”