South Charlotte

Middle schoolers took their lexicon and hit the road

Four students from Randolph Middle School made the trip to Orlando, Fla., for the seventh annual National School Scrabble Championship on April 15-16.

About 200 fifth- through eighth-grade students from across the United States and Canada competed.

Eliza Lieberman, my youngest child, partnered with fellow sixth-grader Preston Pegram, while sisters Katie and Gaby Soden, in sixth and seventh grades, comprised the second Randolph Middle team.

The other 24 students in the Randolph Middle Scrabble Club that I coach each week wished the four luck.

With 100 million games sold worldwide and 25,000 tournament players, the newest batch of competitive Scrabble players will not be alone. My students have had to learn how to cooperate and play together.

"It's hard to agree on words and challenges," said Preston. "You have to learn how to compromise."

All the students, including those who didn't go to Florida, have learned new words - many even parents and teachers don't know.

Scrabble competitors also must rely on math skills and strategy, such as when to challenge a word, when to open up the board and when to trade in their tiles.

The teams played seven games over the course of two days, then watched the top two teams, the Windham Middle School Whiptails from New Hampshire and the Toronto, Ontario, School Champions, play the final deciding game. The Toronto team prevailed, winning a check for $10,000 and a spot on the "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" show.

There were five bingos (when all seven tiles are used to make a word for an additional 50 points) played: "olestra," "aristae," "delaying," "carnate" and "entolled" - the last two are not legitimate but remained on the board because they weren't challenged.

The high game of the tournament was a score of 669, and the high word, played by the Harding Elementary School team from Eerie, Pa., was "tracings" for 140 points.

Randolph Middle students each won two of their seven games; they vowed to study more and come back next year to try their luck - and word knowledge - again.