Sterling students to compete in Odyssey of the Mind world finals
By Julie Filby
Students from St. Anthony School in Sterling will join students from all over the world to compete in the 2012 Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in Ames, Iowa, starting today, May 23, through May 26. The St. Anthony teams qualified for the competition following first and second place finishes at the state competition April 14 in Longmont.
Principal Joseph Skerjanec beamed with pride when he spoke with the Denver Catholic Register about the students.
“I’m very proud of them,” he said. “(Their success) is indicative of who they are … they’re just an amazing group of kids: they work hard, they’re disciplined, they study hard.
“All the kids in Odyssey of the Mind are creative, hard-working kids.”
Odyssey of the Mind is an international educational program for students from kindergarten through college. Competitions—which are held at regional, state and world levels—involve teamwork and creativity to solve problems ranging from building mechanical devices to interpreting literary classics.
“We’ve done well traditionally,” said Skerjanec, referring to the school’s near 20-year history in the extracurricular program. “This year was exceptional in that all four teams placed first at regionals, and then to have two teams qualify for worlds … that was very special.”
The four first-place wins came at the Long’s Peak Regional Tournament held March 24 at Berthoud High School. In addition, the eighth-grade team received an Omer Award for teamwork and enthusiasm.
Susan Stahley, kindergarten teacher at St. Anthony, served as the program’s director and as a coach for several years.
“(Team members) were very polite and supportive of each other,” she said in regard to the Omer Award. “The judges commented that (they) exemplified what Odyssey of the Mind is all about: teamwork, creativity and problem solving.”
At the regional competition the team received an additional Omer Award for their volunteer work on “Odyssey Angels”—a service project where they provided homework assistance to younger students before school.
School parent and volunteer Karen Swan is the director of the program.
“The beauty of the longevity of the school’s involvement is that the fruit of all the previous teams and coaches, and their experiences, have been passed on to current teams,” she said.
The eighth-grade team members have been in school together since kindergarten and competed together since fifth grade.
“In the three years I’ve coached, 13 teams have competed in the regional tournaments, 10 moved on to the state tournaments and seven went to the world finals,” said Swan. “That’s just in three years!”
She said coaching can be difficult as it requires a “hands-off” approach.
“While adults may have many solutions or ideas, we have to refrain from jumping in and doing it ourselves,” she said. “The end result is one of amazement at what the students come up with, how they learn to solve problems creatively, and how they learn to work through issues.”
Life skills learned will serve them well.
“What they’re learning in Odyssey of the Mind, they’re going to be able to take with them and apply to many things they’ll face in real life,” said Skerjanec.
When the students were asked about the secret to their success, they responded, as one might guess, as a team.
“We’ve learned how to work together and listen to each others ideas,” they said in a team statement. “We’ve learned how to compromise and find new solutions to problems big and small. It has helped us in all areas of our lives.”
Team members competing in the world finals include: eighth-graders Shelbe Schure, Neil Lovell, Eric Lovell, Emily Lovell, Ben Lambrecht and Joey Stahley—following their first place finish at state; as well as fifth- through seventh-graders Hunter Paxton, Christian Rose, Maria Swan, Jessica Williams, Claire Swan, Jenna Lengfelder and Matthew Scheck who finished second at state.