The winner and still champion: Meredith Hill


The Mirror

Meredith Hill Elementary School has started a streak.

On Tuesday, the school's four-student team, the P.E.D.S., won the trophy for the sixth annual Battle of the Books, taking it home for the second year. They missed only one question.

Battle of the Books is a reading challenge that puts teams of third, fourth and fifth-graders from all 23 elementary schools in the Federal Way school district against each other answering questions based on 17 award-winning children's books. By the time of the competition, the students have read and studied the books –– from characters and plots to arcane trivia and authors.

"Our team worked really hard," Sarah Martin, the P.E.D.S.' captain, said while being mobbed by excited school friends as family members snapped off pictures. "Well, I told them to work really hard."

The other team members were Paul Jaquish, Drew Camp and Ean Van Bramer. Jaquish was also on last year's winning team.

They said they felt confident they had won at the end of the competition.

Sitting in chairs across the floor of Decatur High School's auditorium, the teams listened to questions posed by district superintendent Tom Murphy.

"In which book does eating worms mean you love someone?" was the first question.

With intense facial expressions and urgent whispers, the teams sorted through a stack of placards with the titles of each book. They had a few seconds to agree on an answer. Music from "Star Wars" played while teams talked over the answers. When the correct placard was found, the captain stood as other team members kept the extra placards turned over so the competition wouldn't be tipped off. At Murphy's command, the captains turned their answers around for judges to see while he announced the correct answer.

"Yes!" was heard a lot from the teams after answers were given.

Parents, siblings and grandparents packed the auditorium and craned their necks, applauded and smiled during the competition. Of course, there were several cameras –– video and digital –– documenting the event from start to finish.

The questions were created by the district's elementary school librarians, who after introducing their teams –– with names like the Camelot Knights, the Dragon Riders, the all-girls Pink Panthers and King Tuts –– sat on the sides of the room watching their teams.

After 25 questions were asked, Meredith Hill's P.E.D.S. was announced as the winner. The team's name is made up of the first letters of each member's name.

Team captain Sarah Martin gave her older brother, Zachary, a hug. He was part of the 2005 winning team and watched with former teammates Marshal Herrick and Camp's older brother, David, from the sidelines. As sixth-graders, they were too old to participate.

The teams at Decatur were the best from each elementary school. All had to win in-school competitions to make it to the big show. Two schools were in the competition the first year.

The P.E.D.S. said they read the books several times to make sure they knew them from cover to cover.

Joan Younkin, librarian at Valhalla Elementary School, said the teams gave up recess time to practice and read. Some broke up the reading list, while others read all of the books.

Students weren't the only ones feeling the emotions of the competition. Cindy Gehrmann and her husband, Carsten, watched their daughter, Hannah, and her team, Lake Grove's Pink Panthers, intently the whole time. When they had a correct answer, Cindy Gehrmann gave them a quick thumbs-up. She admitted she was nervous.

For all their work, the Meredith Hill team members each got a medal and the school got to keep the trophy it won last year. A celebration was held Thursday at the school, where the district champions and about 50 other Meredith Hill students who participated enjoyed cake and pizza.

Staff writer Mike Halliday, 925-5565,

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