Special to The Courier News

Six Odyssey of the Mind teams from the Blytheville School District participated at the competitive level during the March 5 Northeast Regional in Pocahontas, and when all was said and done Blytheville High School, Blytheville Middle School and Blytheville Elementary School will each have teams advancing to the state level, scheduled for April 2 at Arkansas State University/Beebe.

The top four teams in each division qualified for the state event. The Blytheville District accounted for two first-place victories and also a pair of second-place finishes. The BES team that was unable to secure a top four win did earn an “Omer” honor for its teamwork and presentation. The Blytheville Primary School non-competitive team did an awesome job in its division too.

“We all had a great OM experience in Pocahontas, and now we’re excited to be going on to a great state competition in Beebe,” said Diane Hay, the district’s Gifted and Talented administrator, which includes OM. “Our schools are very fortunate to have so much community and parent support from individuals who serve as coaches and judges, and I’m delighted that the ones who served as judges in the regional competition will fill those same roles for the state event.”

The BHS team coached by Toyia Taylor, which actually had mostly BMS students on its team, placed first in Division III, “No Cycle, Recycle”. Team members are Conner Frazier, Bailee McCustion, Rushanti Taylor, Grant Langston, Lizzie Langston, Ky’lan Rogers and Rushawn Taylor.

A BMS team coached by Allison Hampton and Brittany Nettles, “Furs, Fins, Feathers and Friends,” tied for second place with a Middle School team in the same problem in Division II coached by Carlony Lewis & Justin Palmore. The Hampton team members included Justin Braylock, Charlie Groves, Ty’Asia King, Olivia Miller, Taylor Sanders and Lexus Wilson. The Lewis team included Pryce Foyt, Tyler Landry, Remington Pankey, Mariah Pirtle, Courtney Gann, Demetrius Goings and Tyrone Dodd.

The Elementary team coached by Curtis Walker, Sr., and Curt Walker, Jr., finished first in Division I, “Stack Attack”. Members of that team are Ryley Walker, Wills Gullic, Jayla Ransom, McKinley Walker, Whodini Sing, Zoe Hearty and Gatsby Brown. A second BES team coached by Sheila Brown, “Furs, Fins, Feathers and Friends,” finished seventh. Team members are Eryn Blair, Cierrah Spann, Shantaria Parks, Sz’Marya Reed, Sydnee Parks, Ter’Kyra Young and Zyier Blankenship.

Blytheville was again fortunate to have a special team this year in a non-competitive Division I category, “Stir the Pot.” The Blytheville Primary School team participated for the first time in this category. While the scores were not competitive, the team still received very high marks and the judges loved the performance. “We are so proud of these students. My hope is that they move on to compete for real beginning next year,” stated Hay. The Primary team was coached by Tyler and Lauren Isbell and volunteer parent coach Laura Lynn, and team members included Devin Isbell, Trinity Isbell, RyAnne Davis, Rico Moore, Hayden Culbreath, Brody Lynn and Camden LaCotts.

In order to make the regional and state competitions successful, each membership must have volunteers to serve as judges. This year we were required to provide six judges/volunteers for the Northeast Regional competition, and our school rose to the challenge. I say ‘THANKS’ to our local citizens who judged at the regional level and will also work at the state event. They are Paige Hawks, Shannon Page, Rae Galbraith, Eddie Hobbs, Russell Page and Ashley Whitley.

“I will say that the teams from Blytheville have always shown the best manners during the competitions,” Hay emphasized. “We usually take the students to eat at a local restaurant on the way home from the competition, and they never cease to amaze me with their politeness and appreciation for what we do for them. I enjoy all the ‘thank you, Mrs. Hay’s’ I get from my students for whatever we do for them. These kids really appreciate these opportunities.

“I am honored to have this program and all the students/coaches and judges – but I am blessed with caring parents, grandparents and other family members who come to our competitions and help us cheer on our kids. The competition days are very long and sometimes uncomfortable but we always make the best of it, and apparently we love it because we keep going back.”

Some of the fundraisers we have planned include T-shirt sales, food sales at the Downtown Blytheville event on March 26, Mayfest on May 7 with games and a dunking booth, and an Odyssey of the Mind night for the supporters who could not attend the competition to see the performances. “We invite everyone to the OM Night to see what OM is all about,” said Hay. There will be a small admission fee and concessions, which will help with World Finals expenses.

The Odyssey of the Mind Boosters express their appreciation to everyone who helped make the regional competition a big success by volunteering their time and efforts to our 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 kids, and training is available for those who are interested. Further information on the Odyssey of the Mind program may be found at www.odysseyofthemind.com and www.arkansasom.org.

We are taking donations for our World Finals Booster Club. These tax-deductible donations may be sent to Diane Hay at Blytheville Middle School, 700 West Chickasawba, Blytheville, AR 72315. Please consider helping us help our kids realize their dreams of competing on such a grand level against many other teams from all over the world. The OM World Finals will be May 25-28 at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa.