OM students stand out with three firsts, second place win
David Cooke
Tuesday, April 02, 2019

By DIANE HAY

Special to the Courier News

Students from the Blytheville Public Schools again stood out at the March 30 state competition of Odyssey of the Mind at North Little Rock, and when the World Finals competition at East Langston, MI, begins in approximately five weeks, the Blytheville Elementary School team will be a big part of that event as well as the Blytheville Middle and Blytheville High school teams. Curtis Walker, Jr., OM coach of the Div. I and II structure teams alongside his father, stated “Can any good come out of Blytheville? These children are but a piece of the greatness that is Blytheville.”

Four teams from the district participated at the competitive level at the state competition - squads from BHS, BMS and two teams from the BES.  Three of the four teams will advance to the World Finals level in May. 

The top two teams in each division qualified for World Finals. Three of the Blytheville teams (Structure Toss, divisions I, II and III became state champions, winning first place. The fourth Blytheville team took fourth in its Division I problem (Classics …Leonardo’s Workshop). This is the second year for this particular team, and it beat out quite a number of other teams to earn their fourth place spot.

“I’m very proud of this team,” said Gifted and Talented director Diane Hay, also the OM director for the Blytheville District. “Those students have grown and improved drastically in Odyssey of the Mind, and I’m sure as they continue on to next year they will go even higher in the ranks. I have enjoyed watching this team blossom into the team it is today.”

Crystal Vincent and Megan Trucks, co-coaches for the Leonardo’s Workshop team, stated “OM has been one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives! We are very proud of the tremendous growth our elementary team has made – not only in the last year but also in the month between regionals and the state competition. We both plan to continue coaching and guiding kids on their creative path for years to come.”

“It makes me extremely happy to hear the coaches say they want to continue working with kids in OM for years to come,” said Hay.

The Omers, as the teams are affectionately known, had a great experience in North Little Rock. The three winners will be competing in the World Finals level against as many as 800 teams from around the world. Hay also stated that “Our schools are very fortunate to have so much community and parent support from individuals who serve as coaches and judges, and I am grateful to have these that judged at our state level: Paige Hawks, Ashley Whitley, Deborah Patterson, Rae Galbraith, Eddie Hobbs and Lou Riggs.”

May 22-25 will be the 40th Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in Michigan. The competition emphasizes creativity and teamwork and has grown into the largest international creative problem-solving competition worldwide. Millions of students have been working hard all year perfecting their solutions to OM problems and competing within their region and state. Only a few will advance to World Finals; these teams represent the best of the best creative minds. Our Blytheville teams have placed well at past World Finals and we hope to do so again this year.

“I want to personally congratulate these teams because they worked so hard and performed so well. There was stiff competition this year so we must be doing something right here in Blytheville,” stated Hay.  

The BHS team coached by Amy Louise Gullic, Susannah King and David Gullic actually had a mix of BHS and BMS students on their team this year, Division III “Structure Toss”. Team members are Connor Frazier, Jacob Pruett, Wills Gullic, Katelyn Pruett, Gatsby Langston Brown, Diamond Henry and Shamari Cooper.

“Susannah, David and I have enjoyed the pleasure of coaching this spectacular group of teenagers over the course of the last year,” said Amy Louise Gullic. “Our team continues to keep the creativity flowing each practice with new tweaks and twists.  When it comes down to it, we are really more than team members and coaches; we are a family. The future of Blytheville is bright with these young people helping to lead the way.”

The BMS team coached by Curtis Walker, Sr., and Curtis Walker, Jr., coached the “Structure Toss” team, Division II. Team members include Gatsby Langston Brown, Ryley Walker, McKinley Walker, Zoe Hearty, Brody Lynn, Jordan Holton, Hayden Cornwall and Marley Rand.

The BES team coached by Curtis Walker, Sr. and Curt Walker, Jr., coached the “Structure Toss” team, Division II. Team members include Ryley Walker, MacKinley Walker, ZyRiHanna McNear, Brody Lynn, Jordan Holton, Kadyn Herron and Marley Rand.

In addition, BHS senior Lizzie Langston, a former OM member, received the State Odyssey of the Mind Elizabeth Mason Memorial Scholarship this year, which Hay stated is a “significant accomplishment”.

“I can’t wait to see what these teams do in Michigan this year; each year brings new excitement and accomplishments. They are well prepared by their coaches and super creative,” said Hay.

Our students in OM exhibit the best manners during our competitions. It’s obvious they appreciate these opportunities that our district provides for them.

The Odyssey of the Mind Boosters thanks everyone who helped make the state competition a big success by volunteering their time and efforts to the organization.

We are always in need of volunteers as coaches and judges each year. Our program heavily depends on volunteers to work with these great students, and training is available for those who are interested. More information on the OM program may be found at www.odysseyofthemind.com and www.arkansasom.org.  

“We need much support from our friends and members of our community this year by way of donations and support to help our teams get to World Finals,” Hay continued. “We have to take a charter bus to transport these teams and all of their props together, and that mode of transportation can be costly. This year we are asking for donations to help us pay for the expense. The amount is approximately $1,000 this year per person (includes room, board and travel by charter bus). While $28,280 sounds like a huge chunk, it is so worth it for these students to be able to show what they have learned all year through teamwork, creativity and problem solving. They have to pass through region and state competitions to advance to World Finals, so please consider sponsoring a child for this event.

OM representatives are taking donations for their World Finals Booster Club. Donations may be sent to Diane Hay at Blytheville Middle School, 700 West Chickasawba, Blytheville, AR 72315. All donations may be tax-deductible. “Please help us help our students realize their dreams of competing on such a grand level against many other teams from all over the world,” Hay said. World Finals will be May 22-26 at Michigan State University in Lansing.

“We will be at MayFest with our dunking booth, and we plan to have a couple of painting parties that should be fun,” Hay added. “You will see the teams out raising funds between now and May 21. Please come by our booth and support us in our efforts to raise funds for room, board and transportation to World Finals. And thanks again for all your support.”