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Riviera Middle students victorious in Quiz Bowl

A Riviera Middle School team turned the tables on its semifinals rival March 5 to win the Pinellas County middle school Economics Expo Quiz Bowl. Rebounding from a 24-point deficit in the earlier match, Riviera beat a team from Safety Harbor Middle School by 55 points in the contest that tests students' knowledge of economics, geography and mathematics.

The win was especially impressive, Riviera coach Bill Dellert said, because the team members were participating in a quiz bowl for the first time.

"I thought we were pretty strong going in there," he said. "It wasn't a fluke that we won. They put in a lot of time and effort."

Eighth-graders Jessica Myslikowsky and Kimberly Wootton and seventh-graders Sarah Beck, Zahida Cesko, Sara Dorris, Rona Rufin and Adam Weidow began practicing in December. They increased their practice sessions after the holidays from three to four afternoons a week, spending two hours each day going over glossary terms and answering questions from previous quiz bowl competitions.

"It was fun, but it came with a lot of baggage," said Kimberly Wootton, 13. "I gave up a lot of commitments for this. I was up until 11 most nights doing homework."

The team had a strategy to share the workload, she said. One team member was in charge of economics terms, and two were responsible for math. The others divided the continents so they would be prepared for geography questions.

Another strategy was listening for the entire question before hitting the buzzer to give an answer. Kimberly credits "waiting for that key word" for the team's 98 percent accuracy rate.

Quiz Bowl has been an annual event in Pinellas County for about 15 years, said secondary social studies supervisor Betty Douglas. It was created to give teachers a chance to expand on what they already do in economics in their classrooms. The competition gives both teachers and students a chance to shine, Douglas said.

"The middle school kids are so exciting. It's energizing to watch them. We plan on these competitions taking about two hours, but they are so fast on the buzzer that we're finished before an hour and half," she said.

The winning schools will receive a plaque engraved with the students' names, and their coaches will each receive $100. Additionally, the students will be honored at a dessert reception April 2 at Ruth Eckerd Hall.