Perhaps not a typical weekend at St. Andrews University, but certainly an upcoming flurry of activity coming to Scotland County will bring hundreds of people to campus that stretches from the Belk Center to the Scotland Heritage Center to the Morgan Jones Science building and finally, to the 300-acre equestrian center.
That’s what is happening over St. Patrick’s Day weekend, March 16-18, with perhaps as many 1,000 people in Laurinburg to attend and participate in three major events that will be drawing visitors from all parts of the United States.
The science faculty will once again host a regional Science Olympiad as it has since 1974. In fact, St. Andrews was the first university to initiate this state and national competition that concludes each May with some 7,800 teams in 50 states.
Eight or more middle and elementary schools from six counties will converge on St. Andrew’s campus to compete in 23 events. That’s approximately 300 middle school students, parents and teachers who will spend all Saturday in competition. Students, often dressed in specially designed T-shirts and other decorations in support of science, will, among other things, test bridges they have built, fly hovercraft, investigate crime scenes, solve chemistry problems, act as disease detectives and identify anatomical structures as their teams participate in the competitions. The winning teams then go on to the state finals at NC State University and hopefully a national championship this spring in Colorado—and it all started at St. Andrews.
Rooney Coffman (class of ’68) is St. Andrews Director of Logistics and university photographer and one of the founders of the Science Olympiad and whose organization of volunteers is rewarded with the results of the science extravaganza and the return of schools year after year.
The second event, now in its 30th year, belongs to the well-known Scottish Heritage Center that will be hosting visitors both at its center on Elm Drive and to weekend presentations in the Belk Center on campus. Director Bill Caudill fills the weekend with scholars who present topics relative to genealogy, history and culture of the Scots who settled in this region. He expects over 100 attendees who come from throughout the US and Canada.
This event started as a celebration of the 250th anniversary of the coming of the first organized group of Highland Scots to this region, the now famed “Argyll Colony” in 1739. Information and costs can be found by contacting the Scottish Heritage Center.
The equestrian center is accustomed to hosting major equine shows at the arenas on Hasty Road. But this March and the same St. Patrick’s Day weekend, a new event arrives that appears to be a huge undertaking, according to equestrian director Peggy McElveen. The Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) is hosting their Zone 3 Hunter Seat Finals at St. Andrews University Equestrian Center. Twelve classes are held for team riders and twelve classes for riders who have qualified individually. Approximately 250 middle and high school students will be competing at this event. Zone 3 consists of IEA riders from Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Parents, grandparents, teammates, riders and coaches will begin arriving on Friday, March 16, for the official schooling of the horses that will be held at the equestrian center. The competition including jumping and equitation classes for the individual riders will be on Saturday, March 17, and for team riders the next day.
Riders will have the opportunity to qualify for the IEA National Championship by winning their class at the IEA Zone Finals. The IEA National Championship in 2018 will be held in Syracuse, NY.
All faculty involved with each of these events remark that in addition to the competitions, these opportunities lend themselves to recruiting not only future students to the campus, many for the first time, but by bringing parents and friends to Scotland County and Laurinburg where they are introduced to what is available without necessarily having to travel to Lumberton or Aberdeen.
And if those events are not enough, the St. Andrews baseball team will be playing four games on campus that weekend against Bryan College (Dayton, TN).
It’s a great weekend showcase that will bring all ages, activities and multiple states to St. Andrews and Scotland County with expectations that once they have come to compete or watch, they will return. St. Andrews and their motto of “traditionally different” applies well to the community as they introduce many people to what they have to offer and the resources of Scotland County.
Dr. James R. Henery, St. Andrews interim director of communications, wrote this week’s Focus on Scotland, an effort by community leaders on making Scotland County a better place to work, live, and play.