LARGO — North Pinellas schools won one division and placed second in all three in the 2009 Battle of the Books competition Friday.
The Excaliburs of Tarpon Springs Middle School won their division while Palm Harbor University High School, Palm Harbor Middle School and Belcher Elementary in Clearwater were runnersup in their categories. The competition took place in the Pinellas County School Board's auditorium.
The Countryside High School Cougars had won the title the first three years of the high school competition, but came in fourth behind Tarpon Springs High School this year.
"Up until now, Countryside High School is the only name that's been on that trophy,'' said Bonnie Kelley, supervisor of Library Media/Technology for Pinellas County Schools.
Started 11 years ago — except the high school division, which started in 2006 — the Battle of the Books district round has students sitting in clusters of three with hands poised on a buzzer. They answer questions in quiz game format, pouncing on the buzzer as quick as they can.
The regional competition to determine which teams would make the finals was at the Largo Public Library in April.
The Battle of the Books for the lower grades consists of three rounds of questions about 15 books taken from the Sunshine State Young Readers list. The high school competition is styled the same way, with the books coming from the Florida Teens Read list.
Both lists are created by media specialists from throughout the state.
Information on both programs can be found on the Web site for the Florida Association of Media in Education, www.floridamedia.org,
The Tarpon Springs Middle School team included a brother and sister. Zaydi Javeed served as the team's captain while his sibling, Zayna Javeed, worked the buzzer along with Malvika Menon. Emma Drozen was the Excalibur alternate.
In the elementary division, despite being edged out of first place by Lakeview Fundamental, the students at Belcher Elementary School are savoring their second-place finish, said Pam Easley, assistant principal.
"Our school has many ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) students, and so to win a reading competition means so much,'' Easley said. "I credit our media specialist Pat Rinehart for spending so much time with the kids working hard and practicing.''
The Belcher Elementary team members included Victor Garcia (captain), Noah Denker, Sandra Quezada and Marcus Balloon (alternate).
The Palm Harbor University High School team members were Molly Moustafa (captain), Yasmine Moustafa, Sarah Perlin and Taylor Mavrakos (alternate).
The students from Palm Harbor Middle were Johnalyn Gordon (captain), Aadith Moorthy, Ariel Perry-Mills and Emme Lis (alternate).
After the third and last competition of the day, the winning middle schoolers from Tarpon Springs agreed to be quizzed on one more question.
What book should be on every middle schoolers summer reading list?
"The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rich Yancey is just too good,'' said the team in unison as they carted their trophy away from the stage area.
Piper Castillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4163.
6 Number of schools that participated in the 1999 pilot program for Pinellas County's Battle of the Books held in 1999.
107 Number of schools that participated throughout the 2008-09 school year for Battle of the Books.
21 Number of boys who participated in the district competition.
50 Number of girls who participated in the district competitions on Friday.