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Watauga High School’s team includes, from left, MJ Sanqui, Alex Mancini, Shelby Reagan, Cole
Funk, Hannah Dallas and Max Schlenker.
Photo courtesy of Lynn Schlenker

Originally published: 2013-04-15 10:15:58
Last modified: 2013-04-15 10:15:57

Odyssey of the Mind teams advance to world finals

by Staff Reports

A seventh-grade team from Parkway School and a freshman team from Watauga High School have advanced to the World Finals for Odyssey of the Mind, marking the first time that two Watauga County teams have made it to this elite national competition.

The advancement follows strong performances from the teams at state competition last weekend.

Odyssey of the Mind is a program in which teams design and implement an original solution to a problem that demands a combination of creativity, collaboration and swift and effective communication among team members. There are separate divisions of competition for grades K-5, 6-8, 9-12 and collegiate teams. 

Parkway's seventh-grade team that will advance to the World Finals took second place in the state competition addressing the problem "It's How You Look at It." This team consists of Molly Hanna, Emme Nederbrock, Andrew Brown, Sam Crabbe, Elizabeth Copenhaver, Audrey Smith and Thomas Wilson and is coached by Tracy Funk. 

Their problem required the team "to create and present an original humorous performance that includes two characters that act naturally -- to them -- but odd to those around them" and transition to a situation where the odd behavior of one character is considered normal.

Funk praised her Parkway team, which took first place in northern regional OM competition last month, for their "huge accomplishment" in finishing second and for their hard work throughout this year.

"I am so proud of them," Funk said. "These kids worked on every snow day -- most times full days and half days the other times -- and on every Saturday during January and February, and then they spent spring break rehearsing for State Finals."

Funk said it was the team's demonstration of "on-the-spot, spontaneous and creative problem-solving and teamwork that brought them up to second place.  That is a great credit to them."

Watauga High School's freshmen team of Hannah Dallas, Cole Funk, Alex Mancini, Shelby Reagan, MJ Sanqui and Max Schlenker took on three problems and managed to devise one solution to address all three. 

"That made quite a splash," said team coach Lynn Schlenker. "It had never been done before in North Carolina, and everyone was astonished they were all freshmen. There were no other freshmen teams that even made it to state, and our team placed in the top four in the state in all three problems. It's even more impressive that they achieved this going up against some incredibly talented older teams."

The outstanding results for WCS teams at the state finals were preceded by strong performances at the northern regional competition held in March. In that event, the Parkway seventh-grade team that is headed to the world finals won first place, and another seventh-grade Parkway team finished third.

The additional seventh-grade Parkway team, coached by Don Young-Fritchie, consists of William Hampton, Christian Colby, Sarah Paige, Kassie Eller, Lily Young-Fritchie, Zoe Funk and Mackenzie Dallas. Funk noted that these students and Parkway's fifth-grade team had all worked hard to prepare for OM competition, with many using snow days and Saturdays to practice with their teams.

The WHS team won first place in two problems and second place in a third problem at the northern regional competition, laying the groundwork for their strong showing at the state finals and the prospect of additional success at the world finals. 

The successes come at a time when Odyssey of the Mind participation is growing in Watauga County, Schlenker said.

Both WCS teams headed to the world finals at Michigan State University May 22-25 now face the challenge of paying for the approximately $9,000 in travel costs per team to make the trip. 


The students and coaches on the team are asking local businesses and individuals to support their participation in world finals with a donation toward travel expenses.   Information about the high school team and their fundraising efforts will be available online at // and checks made out to WHS-OM can be sent to Watauga High School, 300 Go Pioneers Drive, Boone, NC 28607. 

To support the Parkway team, contact Parkway Principal Melissa Costin at ( or send a check made out to Parkway School PTO to the school office at 160 Parkway School Road, Boone, NC 28607.

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