GREENSBORO — Pilot Mountain Middle School captured its second state title in Battle of the Books recently after a harrowing moment in the last round when the championship of the tourney was decided on a rebound question.
PMMS Coach Rene Mosley said nine teams competed in the tournament at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro last Thursday.
“Every team played nine rounds,” recalled Mosley. “This was decided in the last round on a rebound question which they missed. We won by one point. You can’t get any more sudden death than that.”
Mosley said the Pilot team opened up with its usual solid performance in the beginning of the tournament and did well for most of the competition. She said senior team member J.T. Tarn even talked strategy with her early on and confirmed what the team needed to do.
In Battle of the Books competitions, points are awarded for correctly answering questions. If a team misses a question, its competitor is given a chance to answer and earn points, which is typically referred to as answering a rebound question.
“They went right back into competition to get 20 points (as insurance to maintain a lead) with the goal of hanging on going into the lunch break,” said Mosley. “They got 24 points. This is a competition which can turn rapidly. When they missed the question later, it rattled them. I have to have my back to them during the tournament, but parents told me they knew well enough what was at stake and perked up when the team missed the question.”
The team was runner-up in the state event in 2010 and won the tournament in 2011. Pilot Mountain has advanced to the regional competition for six years with three of those six years seeing them compete at the state level. Mosley explained team members have to read from a list of 27 books to get ready for the competition.
She said members of the team already are reading from books on next year’s list. Mosley added that many of her team members read almost all of the 27 books and read some more than once as they learn obscure facts which often return in tournament questions. Mosley is the media coordinator at PMMS and has coached the team for six years.
The members of the state championship team this year are Austin Burton, Anthony Fulp, Elena Heath, Abby Key, Nathaniel McGraw, Elizabeth Porter, Abigail Robertson, Katarina Sechrist, Nathan Sheets, J.T. Tarn, Cassidy Torrey and Jayne Willard.
Pilot Mountain has won the district competition for five consecutive years. In 2010 and 2011, they also won the Region 7 competition which qualifies a team to advance to the state tournament.
Mosley said one important aspect of the team’s consistent performance is an emphasis on comprehension and not just recalling random facts as well as vocabulary. The ages of members on the team range from 11 to 14 years. She said a mixture of ages is also an important part of the mixture at the school because this allows knowledge to continue the next year.
Mosley said one order of business the team faces annually is getting the new book lists to potential team members. She started coaching the team when her daughter Jessie became interested in competing. She said testing is also part of an ongoing process for the team, but Mosley said her approach keeps the emphasis on being there to compete.
“On this team everyone has to read everything to remain competitive so we rely on a star chart to see who has read what and how many times. On this team everyone has to read everything because there is also competition between the kids.” She said another important component of the team’s success is gradually Battle of the Books teams have taken on a culture all its own.
“It’s a close-knit group, but you have to earn the respect,” said Mosley. “Seventy former members came back to a cookout we held last year which was wonderful. The alumni and the team members treat each other like family. Members of the team ask to go even if they are not on a team that’s competing. Right now I even have little sisters along for the rest of the team.” She said another important part of Pilot Middle’s consistency is support from the school and school administration.
Mosley said she also appreciates the support of parents and members of other teams who supported her squad in the state event this year. The Battle of the Books program is for middle school students, grades six through eight. Students at participating schools read books from a list established by the state Battle of the Books committee, and then compete in quiz-bowl-style tournaments to test their knowledge of these books.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1952.