Liberty County schools have made history at the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl.
Students at Bradwell Institute, Midway Middle School and Lyman Hall Elementary School came home champions, each winning their grade level competition at the state finals Saturday at the University of Georgia.
It is a first in the competition for all three winners to come from the same region, said Sue Prigge of the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl steering committee.
Bradwell Institute won for the fourth time in a row, which is also a first for the competition, said Sherae Howell, BI media specialist and reading bowl coach.
Lyman Hall and Midway Middle have both previously finished in second place. This is their first time winning.
Helen Ruffin, who passed away in 2014, was a library media specialist at Sky Haven Elementary School in DeKalb County. She created the reading competition in 1986 to encourage her students to read.
Students across the state in grades four through 12 participate in the event, which celebrates literacy. Teams square off against one another by answering a series of questions. The team that gets the most right wins.
Bradwell faced Creekview High School from Cherokee County. Howell said the competition wasn’t close and the team knew it had won before the second round began.
“This is the fourth year in a row and not all of these students have been on the team before,” Howell said. “We have some freshman on the team, so it was all very exciting.”
Melissa McCallar, BI media specialist and reading bowl coach, was also at the competition.
Howell said Bradwell has a reputation for being the team to beat because of the team’s repeat wins.
“We’ve heard through the grapevine that whenever they (other high schools) hear that we’re competing it makes the other teams nervous, because we’ve won so many times in a row,” Howell said. “I think that gives our team some confidence but at the same time it gives them a name to live up to.”
It can be bittersweet, Howell said, because students are now afraid of being the team that breaks the winning streak.
“They worked really hard and they deserve it. Ultimately it’s all them doing the work,” Howell said.
Celebration plans are in the works for the winners and the trophy will be on display in the BI media center.
There is a tradition of naming the trophy after a book character from the competition. There’s been no word yet on which name was chosen.
The competition was much closer for Midway Middle.
They won by two questions over Chamblee Middle School in Dekalb County, a gifted charter school, said Cristina Dover, MMS media specialist and reading bowl coach.
“It really was back and forth. They would get a question right, then we would get one right. It was definitely close,” Dover said.
The night before the competition, Midway Middle’s team scrimmaged with Lyman Hall’s team because the book lists for middle and elementary schools are almost the same.
“For us (middle school) there are 20 books and for them 18 books. So we read 18 of the same books,” Dover said, which helped them practice.
Unlike the team representing Bradwell, Midway Middle’s team was actually surprised by the win.
“They were shell-shocked,” Dover said. “My kids were so shocked that I actually had to tell them ‘You won.’”
Their championship trophy is on display in their media center, also called The Hub.
Dover said MMS Principal Debra Frazier is a big supporter of the team.
“On the way up there she provided them with book bags full of snacks and provided for their lunch and dinner on Friday,” Dover said.
Frazier also provided lunch for the winners Tuesday.
Lyman Hall is the reigning elementary school Reading Bowl champion for Liberty County, according to media specialist and reading bowl coach Diane Anderson. The team has won for the past six years in Liberty County but did not win the state championship until now. They came close in 2013, placing second.
Anderson said the competition was “a nail-biter.”
The top two teams, Lyman Hall and Britt David Magnet Academy in Muscogee County, tied and then went to a tie-breaker for the best three out of five, Anderson said.
They then tied again.
“That was the first time that had ever happened in the competition,” Anderson said. “We went to sudden-death. It was one question and whoever buzzed in first and got it correct won—and we did.”
The team was “super excited” she said, and their families who accompanied them, lit up social media about the win.
Assistant Principal Brenda Clark and P.E. teacher Cintretta Lewis, set up a special celebration for the team Tuesday morning.
They paraded through the school, with balloons, confetti and music.
“We have a special lunch for them and we’ve promised to get them a limo to take them to lunch sometime soon,” Anderson said.