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NSSC 2009 Commentary: Round 6
The Convention Center provided a scrumptious lunch for the coaches and students before round 6 began. Students made their own sandwiches, munched on chips, and enjoyed vegetable soup and all kinds of desserts. With the event winding down, there was a mixture of disappointment in some students (the event being almost over and losing a tough game or two) and abject terror (at the final game to come and who it might be against). I heard parents and coaches reminding their students to first and foremost ENJOY themselves!
When the students milled in, there were squeals of delight! Before round four, all students and coaches were presented with their own copy of SCRABBLE Apple, a new Hasbro angram-type game that allows hooks/extensions with bonus tiles colored in red that give double word scores. And now, each table had three boxes of SCRABBLE-themed Cheez-It for each team! The box refers in bright colors to SCRABBLE Junior, but what is most significant is that each cracker has a letter carved and cooked into it! The kids were overjoyed, tearing into some boxes despite having just eaten lunch. On each student's chair was a photocopy of both the Shaquille O'Neal and President Barak Obama letters. The students were waving them around excited. Some coaches with multiple teams were laden down with stacks of crackers as they made their ways back to the sidelines.
Ben Greenwood welcomed the players back from lunch and encouraged them to enjoy their last games of the main event. He asked everyone to play kindly and fairly and then the students were off. The room crackled with nervousness and excitement.
Stefan Fatsis, author of Word Freak brought two teams this year from Janney Elementary. In addition to his coaching duties, daddy duties, he found the time to write a piece for the NPR web site on the event. You can probably find it easily by searching for his name there.
One of the first plays this round was a 118-point Q play: QUIZzES played on a Hopkinton Middle School (MA) vs. Salem Elementary #2 (NC) board. The thing that struck Joe Edley, who was observing the play go down, was that the opponents challenged! I finally find that board at table 20 and see that REVOLVER has been added to the pretty board.
The word HABIDEY* jumps off a board as I'm called across the room to see another board.
At table 33, Sage School #3 (MA) vs. Bay Shore Middle School B Team (NY). While they are at the challenge machine confirming that TIEINGS* is not an acceptable play, I note that FEATHERS is on their board.
Our first upset of the round. Atlanta- Pinckneyville Middle School (GA) falls to Glenfield/Collins Elementary Schools (NJ), 429-440. The victors charged to the sidelines to high-five their coaches/parents out of sheer delight at the win (which they know will place them in this year's finals). They quickly returned to finish the endgame paperwork. Joey Krafchick, one half of this year's superb team from Atlanta, has been a finalist for the past two NSSCs. We are all a bit stunned, workers and onlookers, and Joey looked up and quietly said, "It is really okay. They jumped out with two early bingos and just played very well." His sportsmanship and eqanimity set a calm, congratulatory tone. I've watched this remarkable young man grow up and he just gets more and more impressive at every event with maturity and perspective. While Atlanta got down ADORERS for 71 and AGIOTAgE for 68, the winners played two bingos of their own: RAVINES for 80 and TREADING for 90.
In a Ridgefield Library #1 (CT) vs. Somers/North Salem SCRABBLE Club (NY) game, the beautiful triple-triple gLISTENS was played through the first S. This play helped bring Ridgefield to their 462-299 win. No slouches, the losing team made two bingos: HERNIAS and bANKERS! One of the Ridgefield students, Steven, showed me the backside of his name badge. He said he was so impressed with the play of of Glenfield/Collins Elementary Schools (NJ) that he got them to sign his name badge. I peered closely and made out signatures of two new School SCRABBLE celebrities: Paolo Federico O'Murchu and Nicky Vasquez!
The second most notable upset came at table 3 when Our Lady of Victory Baltimore #1 (MD) defeated Windham Middle School #1 (NH), 431-407. The loss was a shock and Quincy said jokingly to his partner, Bradley, "Well, it's not like I'm an indestructable force." Not getting his reference, I peered over the board. I saw four bingos: SEEINGS for 71, for Windham, and TRAINEE for 73, TAUnTING for 68, and PACKINGS for 71 for the winners. As it turns out, Windham challenged the team from Baltimore on the last bingo. I overheard Quincy explaining that ING bingos don't often take an S. It may have been this challenge and subsequent lost turn that led to the loss. After the game was over, Bradley raised regretting that challenge, though it wasn't clear that they knew the word to be good when the challenge was made. Joe Edley pulled me aside later and said that in the frenzy of student games last night, one of the students asked him what his highest play of all time was. He told that student: PACKINGS for 248. How totally coincidental that the very word came to play such a big role in today's event!
I ran into a coach outside the playing room who wanted me to to know that Bear Branch Bingo #2 (TX) had a 9-year-old on the team that has only been playing SCRABBLE for 6 months. The coach was fairly certain this student was the youngest one here this year. This coach was fairly bursting with pride!
The room is abuzz with excitment over two new teams and two such young teams. Three 5th and one 6th grader in this year's finals. In an event full of 8th graders, this is a remarkable finish!
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