Snowy days were made for reading

Except on this snowy day we woke up early and drove an hour so the Johns Creek Reading Bowl team could be quizzed on books they’ve already read at the second round of the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl.

Just for a quick recap: teams read books nominated for the Georgia Peach Award and then answer detailed questions in a quiz-bowl format.

We got a few snow flurries Friday and knew it was going to snow today, but weren’t expecting much, an inch over a course of the whole day. Well, we got two inches in the morning. Here, that is. An hour away at the Reading Bowl all we got was rain so the girls were looking at photos on Instagram and saying “we’re missing the snow!”.

As I said, this was the second round. The first round, the district level, was held two week ago at Autrey Mill Middle School. Our school district only had two high schools (out of 16) compete. The first and second place go to the second round so you don’t have to have a competition if you only have two teams but our district does, anyway. It’s good practice, particularly for new team members who can get a feel for how it works without risking anything, and you can see how you stack up against another team. And get your trophy! We’ve had other high schools in the past but for the previous five years it’s always been Johns Creek and Cambridge who have won and advanced to regional so I guess everyone else just gave up, I don’t know. As a side note, this competition isn’t just for public schools. It’s open to anyone who can get a team together. In past years a library has had a team. You just have to register your team in the appropriate school district for your competition. Well, all of those years Cambridge has come in first. Two years ago the teams tied and Cambridge won in the tie breaker. This year Johns Creek was determined to actually beat Cambridge. There are 60 questions at 10 points each and usually you play  six rounds of 10 questions. With only two teams no one had to change rooms so they decided to do three rounds of 20 questions each. By doing more, shorter rounds rather than one big one the teams can take a break, confer between rounds and switch up teams members. You can have 10 members on your team but only five can compete at once. Cambridge only had five players so that didn’t matter for them but Johns Creek had 10 and they wanted to rotate to give everyone a chance.

It didn’t start out well for Johns Creek. They scored 60 points the first round and 30 the second out of a possible 200 per round. If neither team gets the correct answer the points aren’t awarded so Cambridge didn’t necessarily get all the other points. They did much better the third round with 110 points but it still wasn’t enough. They lost by 10 points — one question.

They were still very proud of their trophy! There are twelve team members here, you can take as many people as you want but only 10 can be registered. The others are “cheerleaders”.

And no hard feelings, earlier in the week the Cambridge team invited the Johns Creek team to go to lunch with them after the competition. They did and had a great time.

So the next two weeks the kids met and practiced as often as they could and then it was time for regionals at Clayton State University.

The reading bowl is open to fourth and fifth grades, middle school and high school. I have no idea how many teams competed at each level this morning. Katy said she thought there were 12 high school teams. Sometimes they introduce all the teams at the beginning but this  year they didn’t. Everyone meets in the gym and both sides were pretty full. It can be hard to find people on the crowd so Ms. Ford, who is the team coach and school librarian, made them a sign to hold up. Well, some of the letters in Johns Creek High School didn’t print out so they ended up cutting off the top.

Katy and Catherine hiding behind the sign.

We got all 11 girls (and seven parents) there in three cars. I never did see one mom who I knew was driving. Found out later she got roped into volunteering. There are always a few teams and volunteers who end up not making it. Each round requires three volunteers — moderator, time keeper and score keeper. Often they’ll just ask a parent at the beginning of the round to keep score. So we caught up to her later.

So after a welcome from the president of Clayton State and the Reading Bowl official and a reading of the rules it was off to the games. As I said before, only 10 can play. Jenna, who is team captain, served as “assistant coach” for the day. She kept everyone’s stats.

This is a college so everyone scatters to different buildings. We went to the Information and Mathematics building and hiked up to the fourth floor. Where we then stayed because all six rounds were on that floor.

Our first round was against Drew Charter school, We got eight answers correct, they got none and two questions neither team answered. That moderator was a little flustered when our team challenged something. It was her first time volunteering and she said “they just said here, do this”. But she was really nice and the challenge and the whole round went fine. Afterward as the girls to go shake hands with the other team Ms. Ford said to them “you’ve been in their place”. Then it was down the hall to face Rockdale Magnet. Johns Creek answered seven questions, Rockdale one and two none could answer. The back to the first room to face Cambridge.

The girls were feeling really good, they had 140 points and ot usually takes them a few rounds to get that many but this was Cambridge, The Rival. I think both teams were a little nervous. I was really surprised at the outcome. Cambridge answered one question correctly. Johns Creek answered seven and two no one got. I really expected it to be fast and furious and a whole lot closer. So we wished Cambridge well for the rest of the morning. We were up to 210 points halfway through the meet.

Round four was against Stillwell. They answered three questions to our six with one not answered. Round five was against Mundy’s Mill, we answered six and they answered one. Round six I never did get the school’s name but they had Mustangs on their t-shirts. I thought their shirts were cute, they said “I Read Past My Bedtime”. That was another close round. Johns Creek answered five questions and the Mustangs got three.

We had some challenges. One question was something like “In book whatever how  many days did the character say was left”. Both teams buzzed in, gave a number and was told it was incorrect. Our team challenged saying it was a vague question because every single chapter started with a countdown of how many days were left. The moderator looked over at the other team and their coach said “My team is telling me the same thing”. So both teams were agreeable to tossing that question and pulling out an alternate question. This perfectly illustrates my only real complaint about the reading bowl. The librarians submit the questions but they don’t necessarily read the books. They just flip through and pick up details so they may not realize the track star has three different pairs of lucky socks so asking “what color is his lucky socks” is not a good question, but “which pair of lucky socks did he wear to the state meet” is a better question. So that was easily resolved.

Katy had a couple of interesting things happen. When a player buzzes in she (very few boys in this) can’t answer the question until she has been acknowledged. So on one question  Yellow Two buzzed in. The time keeper got his colors mixed up and called Red Two, which was Katy. Katy was sitting there thinking “What? I didn’t touch my buzzer” and in the meantime Yellow Two proceeded to answer the question. Our team challenged that and the question was thrown out.

On another question Katy answered “Commander Somebody” and the moderator asked if she could be more specific. Katy said “well, she was from across the wall”. The moderator gave her the 10 points then said “no, that’s not right, it was Captain Somebody”.  The character changed ranks partway through the book but during the incident in the question she was a captain. At first Katy got the points for having the name correct even though the rank was wrong. So the points were taken away and the time keeper said the question should be read for the other team to have a chance. Well, at that point several people, including parents who aren’t supposed to say anything, said “You just gave the answer!”. So that question got thrown out and an alternate was read. Katy answered and got it right so she got the team’s 10 points back. This was another first-timer moderator, she was doing her best. Then on another question Katy gave the answer as “white supremacist neo-Nazis”. The moderator asked if she could be more specific and Katy said “well, they all lived in this big fort together and they murdered people”. Nope. Question went to the other team and they didn’t get it either.  The answer was “Nazi Socialist Party”. So we teased Katy about being “specifically vague”.

And one funny question. “In the book Poet X, what does Xiomara say her stage name is?”. That would be “Poet X”. First time I know of that the answer has been in the question. Katy buzzed in on that and had a “you’ve got to be kidding” tone of voice. One of those times when the answer is so obvious you wonder if it must be a trick.

So the whole thing went really well. All the challenges went smoothly, we didn’t have to call a judge in for anything, no parents got into it. Just for the few meets I’ve been to I’ve seen some wild things.

After the sixth round they told us to stay put for a few minutes waiting on a possible tie-breaker then they came back shortly later and said we could go back to the gym.

It was just the high school teams as elementary and middle school take longer. Usually they wait until everyone is back and announce winners starting with elementary. This morning they decided to go ahead and announce the high school winners. It’s a good thing, too, as Katy forgot the Uno cards they usually take to  to help pass any down time. There was a little hiccup with the first place trophies. There weren’t any. The reading bowl lady said there was some kind of mix-up that was totally out of their control and first place trophies would be delivered to the schools later. So they announced starting with third place. We weren’t third, we weren’t second. We were getting a little anxious. Then when she called first place we couldn’t quite understand what she said. It sounded like she said “Jones” so we didn’t know it was us until she got to “creek”. Then let the cheering, yelling and squealing commence.

Ms. Ford in the scarf, the team and a random third place trophy for a prop. All the first-place teams are supposed to take a team photo when the trophies are delivered to the school and send it into the reading bowl.

We had a total of 390 points and the second place team, who will also advance to Divisional, had 330.  So next stop is the  University of West Georgia on March 7. This will be the team’s second trip to Divisional, they went two years ago, but this is their first time ever to win first place at Regional. There are two divisions, basically the top and bottom of the state.The competition at Divisional is rough. Two years ago we came in dead last and not just because someone has to come in last. Nearly every question someone buzzed in before the question was finished. At that level it’s all about speed. You have to anticipate the second half of the question. The first place team from each of those goes to state at University of Georgia on March 28th where I imagine the competition is just short of a blood bath. That competition is part of the annual Conference on Children’s Literature.

We didn’t stick around for the rest of the results. We headed to the nearby Dwarf House, which is the team tradition. This is a Chick-fil-A restaurant but it’s half fast-food the same as any other CFA and half sit-down with a much bigger menu.

But before that we had to mill around in the gym lobby while the seniors got photos of their necklace. Ms. Ford bought each senior a necklace to wear and they were really excited about them.

They are little ribbons that say “ex libris”

And finally lunch.

Hanging around the entry way waiting for everyone.

All the girls had to go through the “dwarf door”, you can see it in the background. There are two regular doors on the sides.

The restaurant was kind of surprised to have a group of 20 show up but they set us up with a team table and a parent table.

We picked up two  lunch companions. The curly-haired young lady to the left is Corinne. She graduated from Johns Creek two years ago and was the reading bowl team captain her senior year. She was volunteering — and roped a fellow Georgia Tech student into helping, also — and the girls were so excited to see her there. They were happy to come to lunch with us.

A hard-won lunch!

Now to practice more, get the speed down and make a good showing at divisional.







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