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Odyssey team ‘Gato’ go to Worlds

Sophomores Dominique Peter, Ariel Swindell, Adam Merrill, Connor Ronka, Justin Roberts, and Jacob Knox meet with their spontaneous thinking coach. Courtesy Photo

After almost half a year of hard work, the Bear River Odyssey of the Mind team has moved on from State competition and is currently working their way to Iowa State, where the World Competition will take place beginning on May 23.

Odyssey of The Mind is a school club where students work in teams on a long-term problem. These students use out-of-the-box thinking and spontaneous problem-solving skills. This year’s long-term problems are “Stellar Hangouts” and “Mockumentary.”

The two Bruin OoTM teams shared their outlooks on their performances before the State competition.

Sophomore Arieal Swindell, OoTM Club President, was on the team that took first place at State. She commented on how she went into competition with a relaxed mentality.

Before the State competition, I didn’t think my team would be making it to the World competition because we are all so busy with our sophomore classes and sports,” Swindell said. “It was very rare for all six of us to be in the same room at once and be productive. Walking into the State Competition, my team and I all agreed that we were there to have fun and not to worry about the outcome.”

Other team members were more nervous about their performances.  

“I felt both nervous and excited, but I knew we would do great,” Freshman Maddie Pratt from the Mockumentary team said. “This was a way for us all to be crazy, and we all were. Even though we didn’t go to Worlds, our team did amazing! … I enjoyed every minute of putting [our performance] together.”

As Swindell said, competition is not just all winning, but having fun also. She shared what she loves most about States each year.

“Every year, teams of elementary, middle school, and high school students meet together to compete and show off what is called their ‘solution’,” she said. “Seeing how unique and creative each solution is my favorite thing to see and watch while we are at competition.”

Olivia Lyman, a freshman on the Mockumentary team, agreed about the enjoyable aspects of the creative competition.

“I had a ton of fun with my team and made life-lasting friendships,” Lyman said. “And even though we didn’t make it to Worlds, the experience alone is worth all the long hours.”

Throughout the year, teams have established goals that they hoped to reach, whether it was passing States to go to Worlds or just to have fun. Pratt expressed what she was hoping to accomplish as an individual.

“I was hoping to get a good team with good people, to complete what was asked, and to have a great time,” she said. “If we could have made it to Worlds, that would have been great, but it’s okay that we didn’t. Other than not moving on to Worlds, I think everything was accomplished.”

It took the Stellar Hangouts team a lot of time to jump the hurdles that were tossed at them along the way to reach their eventual victory, as Sophomore Connor Ronka explained.

“Some problems we came across was with time,” he said. “This year, we all had lots of activities besides Odyssey of the Mind that prevented us from meeting as often as we needed too.”

Before Regionals, Swindell said that they lost a team member due to “outside priorities,” but despite that minor hiccup, the team pulled right through and is hoping to have a great time at Iowa State.

“This year, we don’t necessarily care where we place,” said Swindell. “We are more there for the experience and watching solutions other teams perform.”

Along with most of his current team, Connor Ronka has previously been to Worlds and shared his experiences.

“Worlds was a great experience and a good team bonding event,” said Connor Ronka. “We also got to meet lots of people from different states and countries.”

Even though one team has not moved on to Worlds, Jim Ronka, Bear River’s Odyssey of the Mind coach, explained what both Bruin teams had in common during competition.

“The Bear River Odyssey of the Mind teams truly displayed Bruin values at States, both on and off the stage,” he said. “Each team presented their best performance ever during competition, clearly demonstrating the months of intense preparation and high levels of team cohesion.”

It takes approximately $9,000 to fund the team heading to Worlds, so how do they plan to fund raise?

“The team and parents will be pursuing a number of fundraising opportunities to help cover costs, but community donations are always welcome,” Coach Ronka said. “Donations can be made by contacting Coach Ronka through the school office.”

To benefit Odyssey of The Mind, a community performance will be taking place on Wednesday, May 2, in the Bear River Multipurpose Room at 7 p.m.

Other than fundraising, Swindell explained what else her team will need to do to prepare for their journey to Worlds.

“My team and I plan on preparing for Worlds by practicing our scripts and staging as much as we can in these next couple of weeks,” she said. “We believe that our backdrops, props and costumes are ready for Worlds, besides a couple of little things that have broken from traveling. Still, you can never practice too much.”

Although coaches cannot give direct instructions to students, Coach Ronka gave some advice to the team moving onto Worlds.

“My advice is always to ‘do your best,’” he said. “In the weeks before Worlds, the team will need to wisely use the time available to improve. … The life skills that team members have developed and used will serve them well in college and career. …  And they’re having lots of fun in the process. Go, Bruins!”

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Odyssey team ‘Gato’ go to Worlds