KJHS Odyssey of the Mind team wins state championship

After several near misses in the past, the Kingman Junior High School Odyssey of the Mind team has qualified for world competition in Knoxville, Tenn.

"We missed going to world by one point at state three times (in five years)," Odyssey of the Mind coach Daysha Roberts said.

The KJHS team won the junior high division of state competition held March 25 in Phoenix, defeating 13 other regional champions to earn the right to go to Knoxville.

World competition will be conducted at the University of Tennessee during May 30-June 4, Roberts said.

Odyssey of the Mind is a sport that challenges creative, talented students with two-fold problems.

The long-term problem this year was an 8-minute performance of a King Arthur legend in which dialogue, scenery, costumes, props and original song lyrics are all created and choreographed by team members.

The KJHS skit was unique in that team members Paul Roberts, Meghan Curry, Christina Essig, Tyson Brown, Claire Heinitz, Sonja Smith and Kendra Skousen wore the props and scenery as part of their costumes, coach Roberts said.

The creative approach taken earned the KJHS team the prestigious Ranatra Fusca Award during an earlier regional event March 11 in Flagstaff.

Daysha Roberts is the head coach and theatrical coach for the team, while Marilyn Westercamp is the spontaneous coach.

The short-term or spontaneous problem is performed before judges behind closed doors, Roberts said.

Teams never know ahead of time whether their problem will be verbal, hands-on or a combination of both.

Roberts said that requires students to be able to think on their feet and come up with as many creative responses as possible or construct an object to meet specific criteria within a limited time period.

"The creativity of the artwork is what won for us this year," Roberts said.

"Our castle is a hat sitting on a lake that makes the wearer look 9-feet tall.

"The art of Sonja Smith and her tapestry took the most points possible," she said.

A quick-thinking group also made its present felt in the spontaneous problem area, Roberts said.

KJHS will be competing against opponents from 20 other countries and every other state at the world event.

The team needs to raise $8,000 to pay for the trip to Knoxville and already has several car washes as fund-raising projects in the planning stages, Roberts said.

But any business or individual wishing to help may make a donation to the Odyssey of the Mind team in the office at KJHS, Roberts said.

Donations up to $200 may be taken as a tax credit with state income taxes for 2000.

KJHS pupils will have an opportunity for cultural exchange during the world competition.

Roberts said the team will be a "buddy" team for one of the international teams in Knoxville.

Among locations requested by KJHS are West Africa, Australia and Malaysia.

"The kids on (some of) the international teams speak no English," Roberts said.

"We'll watch their competition, they'll watch us, and our students will accompany them around the city.

"Arizona is one of the few states to apply to be a buddy team," she said.

"I don't why others don't as it's a good cultural exchange opportunity."