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Woodington, South Lenoir win Battle of the Books titles

If there was a thread running through Wednesday’s LCPS Middle School Battle of the Books and the LCPS High School Battle of the Books – in addition to the dozens of students who like to read and who can remember what they read – that thread was Woodington Middle School.

Six middle school students holding certificates pose with an adult female.The team from Woodington won the 2024 middle school title in impressive fashion, going undefeated in head-to-head battles while earning the school’s 11th championship in the past 13 contests. South Lenoir won the 2024 high school championship with a six-member team that included five freshmen, all veterans of Battle of the Books play at their former middle school – Woodington.

“They’ve worked really hard all year,” South Lenoir coach Ryan Gardner said.

A mere 10 points separated the top three teams in the high school contest. The team from North Lenoir High School finished second, with Lenoir County Early College High School in the third spot and Kinston High School in fourth.

In the middle school match-up, Woodington led wire-to-wire, leaving its three competitors to fight it out for second place. EB Frink Middle School finished five points ahead of Contentnea-Savannah K-8 School with Rochelle Middle School close behind.

Each year, the Battle of the Books tests students’ knowledge of books from a common reading list – 20 books this year for middle school and 16 for high school. Teams compete in a round-robin format over 12 rounds, fielding specific questions drawn from the books’ contents. Wednesday’s event was held at the Performing Arts Center on the campus of Kinston High School. Sarah Stocks, the district’s MTSS coordinator, moderated the middle school battle and Christel Carlyle, director of middle school education, moderated the high school contest.

Winners of the LCPS titles advance to regional competition this spring.

Six high school students holding certificates pose with a adult male.Both Woodington and South Lenoir formed their teams in October and practiced weekly when schedules allowed. “We would go over the books and questions,” Gardner said. “Sometimes I would have one of them be the question reader and they’d have to go against me, because I read the books too. They usually do a pretty good job of beating me. That’s always refreshing.”

Woodington’s team combined three returning veterans with three new faces – plus a new coach. Although a Battle of the Books coach at a previous school, media coordinator Amelia Swenby came face-to-face with tradition when she came to Woodington.

“I gather they’ve always performed really well,” she said Wednesday after her team extended the win streak.

During its recent span of success, Woodington has won the title under three different coaches and never finished worse than second. Swenby likes the W’s as much as the next coach, but she believes the real value of this competition lies beyond the scoreboard.

“I love it,” she said. “I love to see the confidence that starts to grow from students who can barely speak up to suddenly they’re like, ‘I know this,’ and they feel good about themselves. That’s my favorite part.”

Photo captions (from top):

Woodington Middle School's winning Battle of the Books team are, from left, front Kimberly Price, Evelyn Garcia, Allie Miller and coach Amelia Swenby; back, Alyssa Conner, Josh Stroud and Olivia Conner.

South Lenoir High's winning Battle of the Books team are, from left, front, Kadence Thigpen, Joanna Prybylinski and Rosealynne Terrio; back, coach Ryan Gardner, Jose Avalos Gonzalez, Michael Mozingo and Samuel Hernandez.