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Aycock writes victory story in battle of the books

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Students sit on stage together as they participate in the Battle of the Books at Unity Free Will Baptist Church Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018.

Several schools across Pitt County competed in the annual Battle of the Books competition at Unity Free Will Baptist Church Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018.

By Brian Wudkwych
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Literary lions? Not in Pitt County. This year’s Battle of the Books belonged to the literary jaguars.

Members of E.B. Aycock Middle School turned the page on the competition with a nearly perfect final round on Thursday, winning the war of words. The team scored 20 points in the round to secure a spot in the regional competition next month.

“I’m so excited, so excited, so excited,” said Kim Townsend, E.B. Aycock’s media coordinator and coach of the team, at the Unity First Will Baptist Church where the competition was held. “I was excited nervous. I knew they’d do it, though.”

Aycock was one of six schools to advance to final stage of the battle, where teams competed to answer 12 questions per round about 27 books that they have read throughout the year.

Heading into the final round, the red-shirted squad from Aycock needed just 12 points — or four correct answers — to claim the prize.

Members Shriya Agarwal, Cooper Alexander, Sawyer Alexander, Graham Floyd, Graham Hall, Luke Metzger, Cecilia Richardson, Anisha Sadhale and Nikita Sadhale received their medals after an impressive final effort, edging out A.G. Cox and Hope, which finished second and third, respectively.

Townsend said the team was “incredibly receptive” of the work that goes in to competing at the Battle of the Books. With 27 books to read, the questions at times seemed endless. Queries tended to focus on somewhat minute character actions or small details, ensuring that readers fully grasped the novels.

Townsend said students preparing for battle often have to start reading a year in advance and must attend practice sessions, giving them responsibility outside of their regular class load. 

Still, the 112 students from 13 district middle schools showed their reading prowess, even if they did not win.

“We had a pretty stiff competition there,” Joanna Gerakios, district media coordinator, said.

Previously, the winner of the competition was gifted a complete set of next year’s Battle of the Books books. But this year, Gerakios said, organizers decided to switch it up to gift cards from local businesses.

Barnes & Noble pitched in this year’s grand prize, but the three top finishers all received medals in recognition of their achievement and their respective schools were awarded plaques.

Outside of just awards, however, Gerakio said there is a real educational value that comes out of an event like this. With some acclaimed books like “The Alchemyst,” and a handful of other not-as-recognizable titles, students were exposed to many different types of stories.

“The books are chosen to represent different levels,” Gerakios, who has been moderating the event for the past 10 years, said. “The books also portray different cultures so it exposes to them to kind of a global viewpoint. It also allows them an opportunity to be social with their book, which gets them talking about it and they can get a deeper meaning out of the book.”

E.B. Aycock now will wait for March where its team will head down the road to Washington, N.C., to compete in the regionals for the first time since 2005. If they win in Washington, then its off to the state competition and then maybe, if all goes well, perhaps into nationals.

“I really feel like we can win and go on to states,” Townsend said. ”E.B. Aycock won states in 2005, and this morning they were looking at the trophy. We’re aiming for that again.”

Contact Brian Wudkwych at bwudkwych@reflector.com or 252-329-9567 and follow @brianwudkwych on Twitter.a