First Posted: 5/6/2009
PEMBROKE Members of the Pembroke Middle School Battle of the Books team had to learn a lot and know a lot to position themselves for a run at the state championship being held in Greensboro Friday, but theres one thing they dont know.
It was supreme confidence that allowed seventh-grade students Cierra Chavis, John Sweeney, Samuel Deese, Stephen Locklear, Joshua Oxendine and Lyric Troy to win the Robeson County competition March 4 and 5, and the regional competition in Whiteville a week later.
It was the first time since 1992 the year the school system began participating in the competition that a Robeson County school has ever won the region, beating perennial powerhouses Cumberland and Moore counties in the process.
My students are dedicated and driven, said team coach Lesa Maynor. Its what sets them apart.
Maynor said about 20 students tried out for the team back in September but a series of tests and long hours of practice eventually reduced the group by November to the four boys and two girls who remained.
We practice two times a week for an hour, but they read at least 20 hours a week on their own, said Maynor. Its very hard work, but they love it.
Battle of the Books is sponsored by the North Carolina School Library Media Association. Each year the association selects 27 books in the area of young adult literature. Team members then divide the books among themselves, based on their personal interest, and read them thoroughly to prepare for the competition.
Each battle consists of two teams of six students. Members of a panel ask questions about the books and teams are awarded two points for correctly identifying the book based on the question asked and a bonus point for identifying the author.
Schools are allowed as many as 12 members on a team, but having only six doesnt concern the Pembroke Middle students.
We believe in each other, Locklear said.
Teams are allowed 20 seconds to answer a question. While most members confer across a table, the Pembroke group huddles like a football team to reach a consensus answer.
Its our trademark, Oxendine said.
The team travels to Greensboro Thursday and will spend the night at the posh Embassy Suites hotel before heading to UNC-Greensboro to represent Region 4 in the state competition.
Meanwhile, the team members have enjoying their elevated status, getting treated to a limousine ride and accolades from fellow students, teachers and others.
All the attention hasnt distracted them from their goal, however.
We want to win, said Troy as her teammates nodded in agreement. We believe we can beat anyone.
Chavis is the daughter of Tony and Pam Chavis of Rowland; Sweeney is the son of John and Pam Sweeney of Pembroke; Deese is the son of Dale and Mindy Deese of Rowland; Locklear is the son of Christopher and Kimberly Locklear of Pembroke; Oxendine is the son of Allen and Sharon Oxendine of Pembroke; and Troy is the daughter of Gregory and Denise Troy of Pembroke.