| Carthage Press |
Jasper Junior High students nab Odyssey of the Mind top state honors

By Kevin McClintock
Mon Mar 16, 2009, 12:15 PM CDT

Three hundred and nineteen points -- that's the point total the Jasper Junior High Odyssey of the Mind collected during state competition back on March 7 in Rolla.

With that number, the junior high team took first place, beating out larger schools Granby (311 points), Dent Phelps in Salem (310 points), and Carthage Junior High School (309 points). There were a total of 11 teams competing for the top spot.

The Jasper High School team finished in second place behind East Newton High School, with 312 points.

Junior high members are: Donovan McKinney-Souza, Dakota Rusk, Keegan Shanks, Rodney Adams, Ryan Cummins and Joe Hedgecorth. Returning members are Adams and Cummins.
Senior high members are: Ethan Stumps, Nathan Crazybear, Kaleb Hartgrave, Avery Jensen and Lance Myers. Returning members are Jensen and Myers.

It's a given that Jasper Odyssey advisor Villa Waltz was excited by her two team's results. "I'm just so proud of them. I like to tell everybody 'don't ever count them out' because they come through when you don't think they'll ever come through.'

"My OotM team is different, I think, because it's teaching them to think outside the box, and I tell them "it's not what it says you can't do, it's what you can do that doesn't tell you, you can do."

Like most things in life, the size of the school doesn't matter. "When a small school does well, it just really proves that we have a lot of the same things the bigger schools have, just on a smaller scale."

Odyssey of the Mind, which was created 25 years ago, is like a play or skit. Each year, the Odyssey organization mails out five problem types, ranging from "technical" to "classics." The junior high group chose the same one their neighboring Carthage Junior High team chose, a "humorous" problem. The high school team chose a problem dubbed "The Lost Labor of Heracles."

In other words, kids apply their creativity to solve their own interpretation of literary classics. They bring these interpretations to state and world level competitions. Thousands of teams from around the U.S. and from about 25 other countries annually participate in the program.

Right now, the teams are preparing for "World" competitions, where national teams compete against one another. That will be held from May 27-30 on the Iowa State University campus.

"Always the week before they're panicking and I think 'oh my gosh' they're not going to make it, and then they do," Waltz said.

"What makes this group so special is the fact that they're all made up of all young man. My junior high team is made up of many different types of personalities, and they all came through this year.

"The high school team was disappointed last year and it drove them to do better this year, and they only got second because on their long-term problem they went over time. If they had stayed under time, they ended up with 147 out of 200, they would have been 187 out of 200, and that would have been phenomenal."

As it is, both teams are invited to World. The problem isn't competing in Iowa. The problem is getting there. Waltz said it takes roughly $5,800 for the boys and their advisor to travel to the competition.

In past trips to World, the members sell breakfast and a couple of raffles. They will do a breakfast every Tuesday until World.

"Several of our kids who are in rock bands and they said they would gladly donate their time if they wanted to get a concert together.

"Like everything else, it's whatever we can come up with."

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