Evart team heads to state competition April 21

EVART – After missing an opportunity to advance to the world competition by a small margin last year, the Evart High School Odyssey of the Mind team hopes things will go differently at the state competition on April 21.

“It was a little heartbreaking for them, and that really put a fire under them to go to (the world competition) this year,” said team coach Jenny Rounds.

Next Saturday, the team will travel to Caledonia to compete against other high school teams around the state in a contest of creative thinking based on two parts: solving a long-term problem in an 8-minute skit with props and costumes and solving a spontaneous problem the day of the event.

To advance to the world competition, the team must achieve one of the top two scores in their chosen category, out of 350 points possible; 200 points for the long-term problem, 100 points for the spontaneous problem and 50 points for style.

The team hopes to dazzle the judges with their solution to the long-term problem in the category they selected “To be or not to be.”

The seven Evart High School students designed their skit based on a feud between two cereal companies, General Mills and Kellogg’s. The plot is a creative portrayal of the classic love story, “Romeo and Juliet.”

During the skit, the fight between the two companies causes characters from each of the cereal to quit their jobs as brand mascots and try to make their way in the real world. After an unfortunate event happens to each character, General Mills and Kellogg’s reconcile their differences and the breakfast club unites in victory. The group also wrote words to a song from Grease to sing during the skit.

“Our idea is so super cool and not something any other teams would think of,” said Lydia Wetters, member of the Evart High School team.

Teams were required to include in their skit a trap door, a scene change, a costume change and the phrase “To be or not to be,” which the EHS team altered to “to forgive or not to forgive.” The team also included a life-size character that they made out of transparent packing tape, and constructed a version of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” out of paper mache for the skit’s background.

“It’s fun to see their creative ideas come to light,” Rounds said.

The team practiced their Odyssey of the Mind performance weekly after school and over winter break plus during a class period for the school’s second trimester. The students received a performing arts credit for their in-school work and were required to perform the skit in front of their peers a few weeks prior to the regional competition.

“It was nice to play it off a bunch of high schoolers before (the regional competition),” Wetters said.

The high school team has one first-time member, and each of the other six students have participated in the creative competition before. Wetters, who has eight years of experience in Odyssey of the Mind, thinks the team’s knowledge of the program and creativity will help them succeed at the state competition.

“I’m really excited. Especially after doing this for so many years, I get a feeling like (we) have a good team,” Wetters said.

The team had a relatively easy win at the regional competition, none of the other teams in their region chose to compete in the “To be or not to be,” category.

Wetters said the category requirements were strenuous, but the EHS team was up for the challenge.

“This was actually one of the more challenging (categories), but we all just fell in love with this one,” Wetters said. “The most painful part of the process was that we (initially) had a 15 minute script and we were only allowed 8 minutes.”

The team will practice two or three times each week leading up to the state competition and change a few things in their performance.

The spontaneous portion of the state competition will be a hands-on challenge that requires students to think on their feet. In the past, students have been required to build structures with pipe cleaners or straws.

A team of Evart Middle School students also competed at the regional competition, but they missed advancing to the

state level by about 10 points. The team chose to compete in the “Weird Science” category. The five students portrayed a scientific expedition to a glacier with a robot and a unique submarine vehicle, that looked like a 10-foot submarine sandwich. The team constructed the background to create the illusion that the submarine was moving on a voyage.

“They received compliments from the judges and they were pleased with the level (of quality) at which they had made the scenery,” said assistant coach Aaron Wetters. “I was pretty impressed with the thought that went in to it. For fifth graders, they did some great designing.”

As coaches of the teams, Rounds, Wetters and middle school head coach Nancy Smith are not allowed to give students any ideas. The coach’s goals are to offer helpful advice, organize practice schedules and help students stay on task.

“They are super creative already,” Rounds said. “I just help them corral their ideas.”

The 33rd annual Odyssey of the Mind World Final will be held at Iowa State University, on May 23 to 26. The event will draw teams from the United States, Africa, the Philippines, Australia, China and more.

“Honestly I feel like we have a shot at getting to worlds this year,” Wetters said. “We have such a great team we all love what we’re doing and get along so well.”