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Youths' imaginations enliven Odyssey

900 students participate in regional competition
By George Basler
Press & Sun-Bulletin

DICKINSON -- Gangsters, dinosaurs, Greek muses and assorted other characters roamed the hallways Saturday at the Broome-Tioga BOCES center on Glenwood Road.

They were played by 900 students from 139 teams representing 49 schools that participated in the New York Region 12 Odyssey of the Mind competition.

Wacky characters, outlandish costumes and handmade, colorful sets are the trademarks of the creative, problem-solving competition for students in elementary school through high school. The regional competition draws teams from across the Southern Tier and central New York and has grown into the largest of the 16 regional competitions in the state.

Students work to develop and act out skits to solve predefined problems.

Hannah Martin, 16, a junior at Binghamton High School, was competing for the first time and welcomed the opportunity to "think outside the box."

"You have to be really creative," added Natalie Mulesky, 9, a fourth-grader at St. James Middle School in Johnson City. She joined Odyssey for that reason and also because "it seemed like a lot of fun."

The top teams from the regional competition move on to the state competition at Binghamton University on March 29. Winners there go to the 2008 Odyssey of the Mind Finals at the University of Maryland in May.

The Odyssey competition "allows all kids to open up their imaginations" and pushes them to work as a team, said Elizabeth Waite, who has been involved for 14 years in coaching teams from Donnelly Elementary School in the Susquehanna Valley Central School District.

"I was suckered into it in third grade and have been doing it ever since," said Tony DeSantis, 17, a Binghamton High junior. Seriously, he likes the camaraderie of being on teams, he added.

A team from Horseheads Middle School was ready to be creative even after a one-hour, 40-minute ride in bad weather to the BOCES center. They were competing in a category called "The Eccentrics." An eccentric is "someone who stands out from the crowd," said team member Bridget Sherwood, 11.

That described a lot of students Saturday.

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