Centennial High School players hired an attorney to threaten a lawsuit.
They tongue-lashed Clark High School at a School Board meeting.
Their coach scolded Clark High School players on Facebook.
Clark Coach James Miller still can't believe a scoring error during the March 3 Nevada Science Olympiad caused weeks of war between two schools and the event organizer over who won, or more importantly, who will compete in nationals.
With the state organizer reluctant to name either school the victor, the matter was taken to the top of the Olympiad ladder in Indianapolis on Thursday. The verdict: Centennial won the state championship, but Clark will be representing Nevada in May at the National Science Olympiad in Orlando, Fla.
Like science itself, it's complicated.
The confusion began the morning of the Olympiad at the University of Nevada, Reno, a new venue for the annual event, which was usually held in Las Vegas. Teams couldn't get in because doors were locked.
"It was mass chaos from the beginning," Miller said Tuesday.
However, most of the problems occurred because the 23 events were overseen by new supervisors who didn't start planning until the end of January because the head supervisor took a job out the country, wrote Nevada Olympiad organizer Richard Vineyard in emails to coaches. Organization is key because events are tightly stacked and teams are penalized for arriving late to events.
"This is the first time that this kind of situation has occurred," wrote Vineyard, who has been at the helm of Nevada's Olympiad for 20 years. "I take full responsibility for the error."
That error was giving another team's score to Centennial's lead team for one of the events. The mistake put Centennial, a northwest valley school, in second place when it should have been first, Vineyard said. Clark, on Pennwood Avenue, placed first when it should have been second.
But it's not as black and white as that, Miller contended. He objected to several events, arguing the events should be excluded from scoring because they didn't follow Olympiad regulations. But only one event -- Write It, Do It -- was excluded for those reasons. Centennial was a low scorer in that event. Those changes could have put Clark, 2010 and 2011 Olympiad state champ, on top, Miller said. Clark is home to the Clark County School District's Academy of Mathematics, Science and Applied Technology magnet program.
Vineyard asserted in emails that complaints from Clark and other teams weren't made at the event but after the fact and said no changes would be made. With the one scoring error corrected, Centennial won. But Vineyard wrote the schools on March 16 and told them that Clark would compete at nationals.
That's because Centennial didn't bring the scoring error to Vineyard's attention until March 15, a dozen days after the event. National Olympiad rules state that teams have 24 hours to appeal scores. After that, scores are final.
The rules also state that each team must be handed final scores at the awards ceremony directly after the competition. That didn't happen in Nevada this year because Vineyard didn't have a working printer. It took 10 days for scores to go out.
Unsatisfied with Vineyard's decision, Centennial student competitors hired an attorney who sent letters to Miller, Vineyard and the Olympiad organization, threatening "legal action" if Centennial doesn't compete in nationals. Centennial coach Andrew Douglass also sent Facebook messages to Clark student players, telling them that they lost and it would be honorable to give up the title.
Under pressure from Centennial, Vineyard stepped back from his March 16 ruling and decided that it was up to Clark to either keep its spot at nationals or give it to Centennial. He also threatened in emails to prohibit both schools from competing in future Olympiads.
The decision shouldn't be left to Clark High School, said Miller and Principal Jill Pendleton, who remained quiet throughout the quarrel, not wanting their school or students to get involved in the bickering.
"This is their (Science Olympiad's) event," Pendleton said. "They need to make a decision."
Centennial students agreed. "Instead of taking responsibility, Vineyard left the choice up to Clark," Centennial student Joshua Curtis told the School Board on March 22.
The Centennial team showed in force at the Clark County School Board's meeting to ask members to make Clark give up its spot at nationals. But the Olympiad isn't a School District event.
"Everyone who's been given the power to correct the mistake has failed to do so," Curtis told the School Board.
"This is straightforward," his teammate Jordanna Payne said.
But it's not, Clark Principal Pendleton said.
"If the information was communicated to me that Centennial won, I would support that," the Clark principal said. The crux of the conflict is an "event full of errors."
In the end, Clark will be the national competitor this year. And Centennial's group of students dropped their lawsuit threat on Friday, Centennial Principal Trent Day said.
"They still feel they are the Nevada state champions ... but have decided that the dispute has gone on long enough," Day said. "I find it ironic that the students have remained the most professional and level-headed during this dispute."
Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@review journal.com or 702-383-0279.