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Reading winners: Centennial Arts Academy team takes state competition
The Centennial Arts Academy reading team: front row from left, Connor Kiesel, Marisa Woo, Amy Nguyen; second row from left, Ben Jessup, Jocelyn Nguyen, Simone Stuart, James Michael Harrison; third row from left, Wiley Hickerson, Allison Vandiver, Eli Parrish; back row from left, assistant coach Dallas Thompson, coach Kathy Anglin and assistant coach Kelly Kennedy.

For many, reading may be a leisurely activity to enjoy during a quiet afternoon. For 10 Centennial Arts Academy students, it’s a sport.

“I felt like I needed air bags,” student Eli Parrish said, referring to the bags airlines give to queasy passengers. “It was intense.”

Eli is coming down from a competition season that not only saw his team make it all the way to the state competition, but win its first state trophy in Georgia’s Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl on March 8, after edging Gum Springs Elementary School from Jefferson.

“It’s very detailed trivia,” media specialist and team coach Kathy Anglin said. “It’s very specific details from the books, so they don’t read these books just once. They read them three or four times.”

The team consists of James Michael Harrison, Wiley Hickerson, Ben Jessup, Connor Kiesel, Amy Nguyen, Jocelyn Nguyen, Eli Parrish, Simone Stuart, Allison Vandiver, Marisa Woo.

Since October, the fourth- and fifth-graders have met with Anglin in the school’s media center during their lunch and recess breaks every day to go over the information they’ve read multiple times.

“We quiz and train,” Anglin said. “They write questions and we practice. We talk about the books inside and out.”

The 14 books the students got to read are age-appropriate chapter books from the Georgia Book Awards nominees list, such as “Because of Mr. Terupt” by Rob Buyea and “A Dog’s Way Home” by Bobbie Pyron.

Along with their reading bowl win, the students also won the state essay competition after writing about “Because of Mr. Terupt.”

The competition is intense, even within the school walls. Around 60 students try out for the team every year, and Anglin said she expects more to want on for next year after this state title.

“You read and read over and over again,” student Allison said. “You can write questions to get prepared for the test.”

For their win, the team members received autographed books from former University of Georgia football coach Vince Dooley. They were recognized at the March 17 school board meeting and were treated to a parade in their honor Tuesday at their school.

But to teacher and assistant coach Dallas Thompson, it’s about more than the accolades.

“Not only are they very smart children ... but they behave with grace,” she said. “They win with grace. They congratulated the teams that lost. That’s kind of our biggest takeaway.

“There is gracious losing, but I think people focus on that,” she added. “Don’t be a sore loser, but don’t be a sore winner, either, with a bad attitude.”

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