MEDFORD — As NCAA basketball reaches its zenith, five junior-high girls from Sacred Heart School here are preparing for a tournament that requires a lot more brain power.
The Oregon "Battle of the Books" does not involve hurling Hemingway or dodging Dickens. But it does take a lot of attentive reading and a sharp memory. Teams read 16 books designated by the Oregon Library Association and then must answer questions in a head-to-head quiz against another team.
Grace Bryan, Sophie Hetzel, Renée Stockton, Abbey Hageman and Ophelia Sands won not only the Sacred Heart competition, but then were victors in the southwest Oregon Battle of the Books. They will take their red t-shirts and fine minds to Chemeketa Community College in Salem April 12 for the state championship tournament.
At Sacred Heart, reading is just as cool as being a basketball star, the girls say. Younger students aspire to be on the senior Battle of the Books team. Sacred Heart's team of third, fourth and fifth graders fared well in the regional tournament as well, but will need to try again next year to advance.
Whatever the year, Sacred Heart and other schools always have their reading work cut out for them; Ashland schools are perennial champs. This year's team from Sacred Heart is especially excited to have out-read the team from the Shakespeare-fueled town.
A team gets 15 seconds to answer a question about plot, authorship or style from one of the 16 books. If they answer wrong or can't come up with anything in the allotted time, the other team gets a shot at answering. Only the team captain may speak to the judges — that's Stockton in Sacred Heart's case.
Suzie Schweitzer, Sacred Heart librarian, says the five girls are tenacious at follow through. The girls seem to work hard so as not to let each other down.