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One for the books: Enota second in state reading bowl
Gainesville school squad wins state essay competition
Ten-year-old Joy Nish, a fifth-grader at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, holds onto the buzzer Saturday before the start of the annual Georgia Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl in Athens. The reading bowl competitors were quizzed on the characters, themes and details of 16 novels. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

The Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy reading bowl team took home a second-place trophy Saturday in the state championship bowl.

The team of 10 fourth- and fifth-graders traveled to Athens for the team’s third shot at the Georgia Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl state title in three years. After reading 16 children’s novels this year, the Enota team diligently practiced buzzing in answers to detailed questions about the novels’ plots, characters and themes.

On Friday, Enota students lined the hallways in a mini pep rally for the team as jock jams "Eye of the Tiger" and "We are the Champions" blared over the intercom.

"Everybody in the hall was jumping up and down and slapping high fives and cheering us on," fifth-grade team member Hannah Cash said. "We were famous that day."

A convoy of Enota parents, students and teachers trekked Saturday to Athens in painted cars that paid homage to the Gainesville Red Elephant mascot, boasting "Enota will stomp you." Gainesville police escorted the caravan out of the city limits.

The Enota team placed first in its area and district competitions in February, and was pitted against Cherokee County’s R.M. Moore Elementary School in Saturday’s championship round.

Although the R.M. Moore team took first place in the bowl competition, Enota placed first in the statewide essay contest.

Andrea Gilbert, the Enota reading bowl team coach, said although the Enota team didn’t take first in the bowl, she’s thrilled with the essay performance.

"I’m as proud of them winning that as I am the second place," she said. "They wrote about their favorite book ‘Truth and Salsa,’ and wrote about their Mexican friends and how the book relates to their lives, the community and society. It was beautiful."

Emmeline Jones, a fifth-grade team member, said she’s pleased all those hours the team spent practicing resulted in a second-place showing. Gilbert estimates the kids put in about 400 hours of practice in the past few months.

"It’s better to have second than third, because we had third for the past two years," Emmeline said.

Sara Cook, a fourth-grader on the team, proved to be Enota’s most valuable player Saturday, scoring 80 of Enota’s 110 points. The R.M. Moore team earned 180 points.

Sara said she’s already got her eye on next year’s state reading bowl championship.

"I kinda want to show people just because we lost this time doesn’t mean we don’t have it in us to win next time," she said. "As soon as (our coach) gets the books, we can start reading for next year. We can take the books home and read them over the summer."

Sara said the reading bowl competition and its growing popularity at Enota is giving ballplayers a run for their money.

"Telling the boys in my class there’s a Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl, it’s like saying (reading) is a sport," she said. "It shows them that reading can be fun. It’s not just words and pages."

Ten years ago, Helen Ruffin, a former elementary school librarian in DeKalb County, started the reading bowl. Just 16 schools read the works of Georgia Children’s Book Award nominees that first year. But now more than 200 elementary, middle and high schools statewide compete in the annual event.

Ruffin was on hand Saturday to congratulate students for their commitment to reading.

"Young people, I just want to tell you how I came all the way to Athens to tell you I’m so proud of you," Ruffin told the top six reading bowl teams Saturday. "Kids who read really do turn into adults who succeed."

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