Students from St. Helens Middle and Otto Petersen Elementary schools head to state reading competition in April for the first time

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - The Bibliophiles team from St. Helens Middle School won first place during the regional Oregon Battle of the Books competition last weekend, and will now head to the state competition in April. Pictured from left to right are Gloria Davis, Hallie McCallum, Allison Cobabb, Bridget Caton and team coach Marsha Caton. UPDATED: Two teams of students from Columbia County schools will be moving on to the state level competition of the Oregon Battle of the Books after proving their reading prowess at a regional competition last weekend.

A team of seventh- and eighth-graders from St. Helens Middle School, and a fifth-grade team from Otto Petersen Elementary School, will each represent their

schools at the state competition April 7 in Salem.

For students at St. Helens Middle School, their accomplishment was unexpected. As a school district, this marks the first time St. Helens students have ever participated in the competitions.

Students at various grade levels at McBride Elementary, Columbia City Elementary and St. Helens Middle all took part in schoolwide battles for OBOB. The best teams then faced off at regionals, where the top teams advanced to the state competition.

The team from St. Helens Middle selected the moniker "Bibliophiles" after reading it in a book. For the team — made up of students Bridget Caton, Allison Cobabb, Gloria Davis and Hallie McCallum — the definition of the word bibliophile as "a lover of books; one who loves to read, admire and collect books" was the perfect description.

Many of the team members said they enjoyed reading prior to getting involved in OBOB and developed closer friendships with one another through the process. The group primarily met during the school day to prepare for the competition, often giving up lunch breaks, recreation and free time to do so.

Cobabb, the only eighth-grader on the team, said she was excited to join and take part in something competitive centered around one of her favorite activities — reading.

"People think I'm crazy and I read too much and I'm not socially interactive," Cobabb joked. "But I just wanted to prove to people that reading is a competitive sport."

PHOTO COURTESY OF SCAPPOOSE SCHOOL DISTRICT - The Fantastic Four took a first-place victory during the Oregon Battle of the Books regionals, and will now represent Otto Petersen Elementary School at the state competition. Pictured are fifth-graders Quinton Olson, Cate Kinsman, Molly Heimbuck, Maverick Heimbuck and Kade Fisher. Heading into the regional competition, the girls said they didn't know what to expect, given that it was the first year the school even participated. Still, they were feeling pretty confident about their personal knowledge of the book list.

Heading to state will be another new experience, however. The students and their coach, Marsha Catton, are looking forward to the event

"I'm excited that we get to go. We just went to compete and have a good time [at regionals], and we kept winning," Marsha Catton said. "It'll be interesting to see how some of the other teams who have competed before, how the competition changes."

In the Scappoose School District, several teams from Sauvie Island Academy and Otto Petersen Elementary also took part in school battles and regionals.

A fifth-grade team from Otto Petersen Elementary, called the "Fantastic Four," have also advanced to the state level, marking the first team from the school to make it to that level of OBOB competition. Students on the team are Cate Kinsman, Molly Heimbuck, Maverick Heimbuck, Kade Fisher and Quinton Olson, who is an alternate.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct name of the Otto Petersen Elementary School fifth grade team. More infomration about the team will be reported next week in a follow up story.

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