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St. John Paul II Catholic High School sends two teams to national rocketry challenge

The American Rocketry Challenge announced the 100 national finalists for the world’s largest student rocketry competition, and two seven-member teams from St. John Paul II Catholic High School (JPII) were named finalists for the national Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC) this year. Only 100 of the 798 teams nationwide had the qualifying scores to attend and compete in challenge with 45 states being represented. Finalists are competing for $100,000 in prizes and the title of national champion, which includes an all-expense paid trip to compete in the International Rocketry Challenge at the Paris Air Show in June. The national finals will take place Saturday, May 20, in The Plains, Virginia. 

Per the challenge, each of the teams designed, built, and launched model rockets to safely carry one large hen egg to an altitude of 850 feet, stay airborne for between 42 and 45 seconds, and return the rocket to the ground safely. The twist was one section of the rocket must contain the egg and altimeter and the second the rocket motor(s). Both tubes must also separate after apogee (peak of flight) and land with their own parachutes.

The two JPII teams selected were The Falcon Rocketeers and Noah’s TARC. The Falcon Rocketeers co-captains are Juliet Spradlin and Stephen Hibbs. Noah’s TARC’s co-captains are Catherine Hare and Sophia Damen. The JPII team faculty sponsor is Science Department Chair Brian Finzel, who has had yearly TARC teams since 2013, the same year the school had a team go to the national competition and placed third. Duane Mayer, a dedicated school TARC volunteer, has helped the school since 2013. The most recent JPII team to go to the national competition was in 2018. 

Over the years, there has been rising TARC interest and participation among JPII students including girls, who now comprise half of the JPII participating TARC students. The TARC competition has inspired nearly 90,000 students in middle and high school to explore education and careers in STEM fields. A number of the past JPII TARC team members are now engineers in the aerospace industry, while others have gone on to other STEM careers. More information on the American Rocketry Challenge, which identifies the TARC top 100 teams, can be found at