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One-man Odyssey of the Mind team wins big

Fort Myers student headed to world championships

1:10 A.M. -- Michael Saboda is on a one-man odyssey.

When his Odyssey of the Mind team didn't want to compete in the state tournament last weekend, the 13-year-old Oak Hammock Middle School student decided to go it alone.

And he won. Now the Fort Myers student is headed to the world championship in Michigan next month.

Odyssey of the Mind is a creative problem-solving competition for students from kindergarten through college. Team members solve problems and present their solutions in a performance to a panel of judges.

Michael's team disbanded because of tensions after regional competition.

But that didn't stop the seventh grader, who has dyslexia, from filling out the forms to represent his group against the top 19 teams in Florida.

His principal, Clayton Simmons, covered the $50 entry fee.

Michael turned months of teamwork into a one-man show, building column structures out of balsa wood and acting in a skit.

"He was the last performance of the day," said Debbie Stichter, regional director for the Odyssey of the Mind Sun Region. "The room was packed. The composure of this boy in middle school was tremendous."

While he placed eighth out of 19 in his category, Michael got something even sweeter.

The lone competitor received a standing ovation from thousands of kids in the University of Central Florida arena in Orlando after officials gave Michael the most important award of the evening.

"The Ranatra Fusca Creativity Award is the greatest honor any individual or team can receive from Odyssey of the Mind," Stichter said.

Michael's principal will host fundraisers to get Michael to Michigan.

"To get in front of a group of people and present as an individual takes a lot of bravery on his part," Simmons said. "We can't be any prouder of him."

His sister, Trier Saboda, 10, has written "one-man team" and "world finalist" on the family's maroon Chevy van driving around town.

Michael is determined to make them all proud.

"I did all of this because I want to go to world," Michael said. "I believe that I am ready. I am ready to go to world."

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