Kalamazoo, MI
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Bringing Home the Au

(Left to right) Chris Vennard '20, Bri Leddy '19, Audrey Thomas '19, Liz Knox '21, Adam Decker '21, Maria Fuji '18, Jake Sypniewsk '20 represented Kalamazoo College at the Battle of the Chem Clubs competition. (Left to right) Chris Vennard '20, Bri Leddy '19, Audrey Thomas '19, Liz Knox '21, Adam Decker '21, Maria Fuji '18, Jake Sypniewsk '20 represented Kalamazoo College at the Battle of the Chem Clubs competition.

While the rest of the country stays glued to their televisions in hopes of witnessing the stunning feats of Olympic medalists, the campus community here at Kalamazoo College need look no further than its own chemistry department to find champions.

On Saturday, January 27, the Kalamazoo College Chemistry Club returned victorious from a day-long excursion at Michigan State University, taking first overall at the annual “Battle of the Chem Clubs.” Beating out eleven other Michigan-based teams, including traditional “big winners” such as Hope College and Wayne State University, K students returned the Silver Separator Tunnel Trophy to the Dow Science Building for the first time since 2013.

“The win definitely sets us apart from the other schools, and I think we’ve been deserving it for a while,” club secretary and competitor Chris Vennard ‘20 said. “We’ve been competing hard, so I’m glad that we finally brought the trophy home.”

Alongside Vennard, the winning team was comprised of chemistry students Maria Fujii ‘18, Bri Leddy ‘19, Audrey Thomas ‘19, Liz Knox ‘20, Jake Sypniewski ‘20, and Adam Decker ‘21, each of whom participated in at least one of seven events such as rounds of Speed Titration, a Spectroscopy Interpretation Challenge, and a Jeopardy-style question-and-answer portion. Of all the events, Vennard claims the team’s favorite to participate in was Charades, in which they acted out terms exclusively relating to chemistry.

“[Charades] is super fun because, at its core, it’s a bunch of nerds getting together and having a good time,” he said.

Though Vennard admits that club members are “always” building up their knowledge through chemistry classes here at K, the team prepared for the competition itself by quizzing one another in Trivial Pursuit-style chemistry questions during the drive to Michigan State, as well as by practicing speed titration in the weeks before the event. And the team’s hard work can certainly be said to have paid off, resulting in a win that surprised even them.

“We … expect[ed] to go pretty far; we usually do well, making it at least to the semi-finals,” Vennard explained. “But I don’t think we expected to win it all.”

Perhaps it was the surprise of the victory that made it all the sweeter, as Vennard describes the feeling as being “like winning a huge sports event.”

“We like to liken it to when a football or soccer team makes it to the state finals, and you’re so hype for it — we were at that level,” he said. “It’s hard to really describe the energy without actually being there, you know?”

And with first-year Adam Decker gaining some experience in a statewide competition and team leaders Audrey Thomas and Bri Leddy to returning for next year’s competition as seniors, there are plenty of reasons to expect continued success from the defending champs.

When asked if he was feeling good about the Chemistry Club’s chances next year, Vennard answered, without hesitation, “definitely.”

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Bringing Home the Au