Going to state!

The seniors on the Johns Creek Reading Bowl Team are finishing out high school with a bang. And the others are having a great year, too. After coming in second to Cambridge High School (only two teams) at the district level they advanced to regionals, which they’ve done every year for at least the last six years. This year, though, they set a school record by coming in first place. The team then advanced to divisional competition. The top two teams in each of the six regions advances to divisional and two years ago the team came in second at regional and advanced. Then they got to divisional and found out this is where it gets serious. That was real competition. Kids were buzzing in before the questions were completed and basically left the gladiators in the dust. Two rounds had them losing 11-1 and 11-0 (one question neither team got). Walton High School was a real powerhouse. So was Creekview who won first place for the second year in a row. They awarded participation trophies to the non-placing teams and you never saw anyone so excited about getting one.

And with only five team members!

This year the team thought they had a really good chance at placing at regionals but coming in first was a real surprise and delight. And the ones who had been to divisional before (all of the above but Corrine in the middle who graduated) had some idea what to expect. They learned early on that speed is the key. So the last few weeks the team has really buckled down and been reading, quizzing and strategizing. Their plan was to pick the five best players to play every round with a couple of alternates. They aimed to win this. Then they decided on six players with four alternates. You can have 10 team members but only five compete at a time. So with six they would have some rotation each round.

So Friday night Katy sped-read a book no one was quite familiar enough with while I baked banana muffins. Katy had already made cake pops to take and then she baked some frozen cookie dough. We may not always win, but we always keep everyone fed!

And it was up early to drive to the University of West Georgia, close to the Alabama border. I’m pretty sure they reserve a location long before they know which teams will be there. Not one team lived anywhere near there and one team had to come in the night before. I didn’t think to ask if they stayed up half the night practicing.

So we all gathered in the campus “ballroom”. As I said there are three regions and each sends the top two teams in each level – elementary, middle and high school. Denmark High School was a no-show. They canceled ahead of time so there was no last-minute schedule change. That school just opened in 2018 so their team isn’t very old. They did very well as a new team to get this far, I’m curious why they couldn’t make it. So we only had five teams. So each team played four rounds and had one bye. Each round was 12 questions at 10 points each for a total of 480 points.

Snacking and reviewing while waiting for everything to start.

Ms. Ford (school media specialist and team coach) put this on Twitter.

We had a welcome and a reading of the rules and then teams were dismissed by level. High school was the last to go.

Our first round was against North Cobb. Our moderator was an accounting teacher and very nice. He didn’t turn out to me much of a moderator, though. That first round was pretty smooth. Each team got five questions with two questions not answered correctly (or at all).

Second round was a bye so we sat out in a little lobby area down the hall and the girls fortified themselves with snacks and asked a few practice questions.

Third round was in the same room with the same moderator against Rabun County. That level we won eight to two with two questions going unanswered. One question neither team answered correctly so Harshita challenged saying it was a bad question and should be thrown out and an alternate question given. The other team didn’t say anything. The moderator concluded that it may well be a bad question but as he hadn’t personally read the book he couldn’t say if it was a bad question, neither team gave an answer anywhere close to what was on the card and that the alternate questions were only for if he messed up reading one. Well, it doesn’t matter if the moderator read the book or not and the alternate questions are there not only for if a moderator messes up but also if a question turns out to be unclear or the the answer on the back is incorrect or something. After the round the teams were discussing it and the other team agreed that it was a bad question and the answer on the card occurred later. I don’t know why they didn’t speak up during the challenge.Ms. Ford, the team coach, said he was wrong and they could have called in a judge with the book to settle it but decided it wasn’t worth it.

Round four was against Tucker High School, the second place team from our region. There were enough teams at regional that we didn’t play Tucker. This round was in a different room with a different moderator. This round Catherine buzzed in to answer a question about where an event happened. She gave the name of the specific high school. The moderator asked if she could be “more general”. While she was thinking he was saying “town … city” and I kept waiting for the other team to jump in and holler challenge. Finally Catherine said “New York” and he said “that is correct”. And the other team still didn’t challenge. Katy said later if it had been reversed, she would have challenged. So would anyone else on our team. Some teams are hesitant to challenge. Our girls were while in middle school but with a lot of encouragement and after a few successful challenges they’ve learned to speak up when they think something is wrong. When Catherine buzzed in and said the name of the high school the moderator just should have said “that is incorrect” and read the question for the other team. Anyway, they finished up with Johns Creek having nine questions, Tucker with two and one question not answered.

Round five was Walton High School. Remember them? The team that slaughtered us two years ago? We knew they were going to be there and the girls were nervous about this match-up. Last year Walton won state. Although I did find out talking to a parent during round one that North Cobb beat them at regionals. I really expected this round to be fast and furious and it really wasn’t. It goes quickly, the moderator (same as in round four) said it takes longer to read the rules than answer the questions. Johns Creek answered seven questions and Walton answered four. One poor little girl on Walton’s team missed a question and started crying. At the end of the round, she was sobbing. I got our container of chocolate cake pops and went over to ask if she wanted one (chocolate fixes everything) and Katy was right behind me with the Golden Oreos but she was just inconsolable. We found out later that was the first time she missed a question. Ever or just today I don’t know. I did hear her coach tell her “it’s OK, you’ve answered 90% of our questions”. A few minutes later she was calmer and told me she would take me up on the Oreos. So both teams shared snacks until someone came and told us we could go to the ballroom.

Something funny happened in one of the rounds. The question asked why a character did not have an Epi-pen in her purse. The other team buzzed in and gave an incorrect answer so the question was repeated for Johns Creek. Katy buzzed in, waited a few seconds then threw her hands in the air and said “I don’t know, because she wanted to kill her husband”. The moderator jokingly said “the high cost of health care”. There were two acceptable answers: “someone took it out” and “it was in the junk drawer”.  When I asked Katy about her answer she said at some point in the book the wife told her husband “I should just fry everything in peanut oil and be finished with you”. Apparently the husband was allergic to peanuts. So no points there.

Oh, and in one book there is a character who drives a BMW.  “What kind of car did the character drive” was asked and Harshita buzzed in with the answer. We all laughed and I’m sure the other team wondered why. Harshita drives a BMW and the team teases her every time that question comes up. There’s lots of humor in reading bowl.

Johns Creek had 280 points out of 480. That sounds good but while we held Walton to only forty points (four questions) for all we knew they beat every other team 12-0. You just don’t know until the end.  And I want to point out that Catherine earned 150 points for Johns Creek. Over half the points.

Two years ago when we were at divisional the high school level had a three-way tie that took over an hour to settle. This time there were no ties, thank goodness.

So we sat in the ballroom and waited. I was afraid they were going to make us wait for elementary and middle to finish, which takes forever, but they didn’t.

Katy said they had three goals for today:

Floor goal: not embarrass ourselves. That seemed to have been met.
Reach-goal one: beat Walton. Did that.
Reach-goal two: Win. This was up in the air.

So they announced the winners. Third place: North Cobb. Second place: Walton (yes, we cheered for them). I looked over at the girls near me and said “well, you either won big or lost big”.

Well, they always say you can tell how a jury in a trial has decided by where they look in the courtroom after returning from deliberations. If they decided for the defendant, they are more likely to look at the defendant. If they decided against the defendant, they look everywhere but his direction. While the reading bowl lady was dragging on the first place announcement she kept looking our way.

And she called it. Johns Creek High School.

All the kids were sitting on the floor and each winning team popped up like jacks-in-the-boxes to rush the stage when their team was called.

The team with the trophy. Front row:  Charlotte, Catherine (who answered 15 out of 24 questions), Alishia, Grace and Elizabeth. Back row: Harshita, Katy, Tatum, Grace and Jenna.

After all the hubub and picture-taking calmed down one of the head reading bowl ladies asked a mother whose child had been in it from fourth to 12th grade to speak. Then she asked if anyone else wanted to speak. Katy really wanted Jenna, our team captain to say something, but Jenna really didn’t want to. Katy’s not much on public speaking either but she decided if Jenna wasn’t going to talk about herself then Katy would talk about Jenna. And she got up there and did it. I couldn’t believe it. She told me later there were only about 30 people in the room or she wouldn’t have done it. Jenna hasn’t competed this year but she has organized the team, set up who is going to play each round, keeps track of which books each girls is familiar with, runs the practice rounds. They wouldn’t have made it this far without her organizational skills and encouragement.

What Katy said.

The state competition is held at University of Georgia in conjunction with the Georgia Conference on Children’s Literature on March 28th. I’m hoping as contestants we get to look around the conference. Student day tickets are $94. We knew state is only two teams as there are only two divisions and only first place goes. We found out from Walton that it’s two rounds of 15 questions each. That doesn’t leave much wiggle room.

So, off they go!

And the celebration lunch was held at an Irish pub in town. They had a TV playing and what was on the screen? The Johns Creek High School Academic Bowl team. That competition was being broadcast on a local station The girls all pointed and squealed when they saw that, I’m sure our waitress thought they were nuts. And Katy knows the girl on the team.

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