Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rookie Wimauma kids take state chess championship

Wimauma Elementary School chess team members, from left, with their state championship trophy: Anuar Aquirre, 12, Omar Vences, 11, Jose Cabrera, 11, Lisbeth Reynoso, 12, Yovan Moreno, 12, and Dandy Bardales, 11. The school didn’t have a chess team until the new principal, Roy Moral, started it, often using his own money to bring the children to local tournaments.

SKIP O\u2019ROURKE | Times

Wimauma Elementary School chess team members, from left, with their state championship trophy: Anuar Aquirre, 12, Omar Vences, 11, Jose Cabrera, 11, Lisbeth Reynoso, 12, Yovan Moreno, 12, and Dandy Bardales, 11. The school didn’t have a chess team until the new principal, Roy Moral, started it, often using his own money to bring the children to local tournaments.

WIMAUMA — Less than a year after starting a chess club from scratch, Wimauma Elementary School welcomed home a team carrying a state championship trophy the size of a small child.

But teachers can't be sure that the fifth-grade victors from April's win will be back next year for the national tournament.

That's because many of them are hitting the road with their families in the next few weeks to travel north, where their parents work through the summer and early fall in the fields or on construction sites. Sometimes, the children don't return.

"You never know, things happen up there," principal Roy Moral said. "They might not move back because there's not enough work here."

Sometimes parents have problems with immigration paperwork or get deported, he said. But Moral is ever the optimist.

He's already talking with officials at Shields Middle School in Ruskin to create a new chess club for the winning teammates when and if they return as sixth-graders in the fall.

Moral started the Wimauma chess club at the end of last school year shortly after taking over as the principal.

He arrived at his new post with a successful track record, having just guided a team at Palm River Elementary to the regional championship.

At Wimauma, he started with first-graders, some of whom knew chess moves from a teacher demonstrating coordinates on a plane. He taught the children strategy and got them ready for a tournament in Brandon last spring. They finished second place out of 12 teams. The fever caught on. Children started teaching their siblings. On the playground, Moral found his chess team showing moves to other children.

The Redlands Christian Migrant Association bought handheld electronic chess sets for children migrating north last summer with their parents.

A month into this school year, Moral's chess team had grown to 40 children. Several teachers volunteered to coach the students after school.

"We teach them to take their time," Moral said. "They are very patient children. I think growing up as a migrant child and having to drive every year up north and back south and helping your family out in the fields, that instills a lot of patience in a child."

With a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center, Moral entered the students into Tampa tournaments in late October.

The kindergarten and first-grade team won first place. The second- and third-graders finished fourth; and the fourth- and fifth-graders took third place.

Then, in mid April, the Orlando state tournament awaited. The team had to stay in a hotel for the three-day event.

They got help from sponsors: Allstate Construction, the company working on the school's repairs, and the Hillsborough Education Foundation.

Organizers figured the children would do well, said Josie Gracia, project director at RCMA. But they had no idea what awaited.

"From the first round, we were in first place and we never looked back," Moral said of the six fifth-graders.

The final day, they were ahead a point and a half. The last four students had to maintain the lead. One child exited the tournament hall with a draw, only a half point. The next child, another draw. The third, a win. Just one more student to go.

The clock crawled for Moral, who was pacing outside the hall. Only the players were allowed inside. The last student's match lasted an hour and 55 minutes.

"The child came out so exhausted, his demeanor looked like he had lost," Moral said. He walked up to Moral and said simply, "I won."

The children didn't know they were state champions until the awards ceremony hours later.

"They take wins and losses, like a lot of things, in stride," he said. "They said, 'We did a great job,' but then the next question was, 'Do we meet next Friday?'"

The seven students in the kindergarten through third grade came in seventh place out of 26 teams. Moral wants the fifth- graders to coach the younger players before they leave.

As for the students, the trophy and the championship were great. But the trip and hotel were an equal part of the excitement.

"The hot tub," said Dandy Bardales, 11. "I couldn't stay out of the hot tub. It was so much fun."

Staff photographer Skip O'Rourke contributed to this report. Saundra Amrhein can be reached at amrhein@sptimes.com or 661-2441.

>>fast facts

How to help

To become a sponsor of the Wimauma Elementary chess club, call principal Roy Moral at 671-5159.

Rookie Wimauma kids take state chess championship 05/01/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 1, 2008 4:37am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

    Blogs

    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  2. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  3. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title

    Blogs

    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  4. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.

  5. IT failure blamed for British Airways cancellations (w/video)

    Airlines

    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend.

    Passengers wait at a British Airways check-in desk after the airport suffered an IT systems failure Saturday at London''s Gatwick Airport. [Associated Press]