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Local kids take Bible Quiz national championship

The championship team consisted of: front row, from left, Rachel Holley, Hannah Olney, Ashley Larson and Allyssa Larson; in back, coaches Kathy Holley and Verna Ditty. -
The championship team consisted of: front row, from left, Rachel Holley, Hannah Olney, Ashley Larson and Allyssa Larson; in back, coaches Kathy Holley and Verna Ditty.
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By Brenda Sexton

The Courier-Herald

In the end it was patience, control, staying sharp and an incredible knowledge of the Bible that earned Auburn's Northwest Family Church and its Enumclaw and Bonney Lake team members the Junior Bible Quiz Festival national championship.

"We didn't know until the very last round," said Verna Ditty, who along with Kathy Holley consider themselves the team's novice coaches. "There were many teams that were very, very close to us.

"We were just so excited we were in the top 10. We were beside ourselves to win it."

Enumclaw team members Rachel Holley and Hannah Olney and Bonney Lake sisters Allyssa and Ashley Larson also made history. The Northwest Family Church team became the first in the Pacific Northwest Region's 20-year existence to bring home a national title.

The Pacific Northwest region includes Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Idaho and Montana.

Junior Bible Quiz is a national program. Team members, consisting of first- through sixth-graders, memorize the 576 questions and answers in the Bible Fact Pak, a Scripture memorization tool covering people, places, events and teachings of the Bible.

Local teams test their knowledge against each other and then move on to district and regional levels to compete.

The National Junior Bible Quiz Festival began in 1985 with the top teams from the nation coming to quiz together and celebrate learning God's word. The festival has grown from about 20 teams to more than 70 teams this year.

More than 8,000 quizzers from across the country, representing 1,600 churches, began the season in September. After the eight regionals took place, they were whittled down to 72 teams that converged on Naperville, Ill., June 9-11 for the national championships.

The Plateau-area girls placed second at the district level, and after surviving several heart-stopping moments, tied for first in the region. After the tie-breaking scenario played out, the team was relegated to third. It didn't matter, as the top five teams advance to the national festival.

"We knew we were good at the region," Ditty said. "We didn't know we were that blessed."

Holley and Ditty said the kids were prepared. It was their job to keep them relaxed and having fun in Illinois.

"We just focused on fun and tried to keep the pressure off them," Ditty said.

Each match has 20 questions varying between 10 and 30 points. Once presented, teams have 30 seconds to answer a question. Matches are lightening fast, and a team's scorekeeper, in this case Ditty, has to stay on their toes.

The Northwest Family Church team uses a specific strategy. Each of the four members on the team memorizes a point-system worth of cards. For example, Hannah, a fourth-grader at Westwood Elementary, memorizes a 10-point series of cards. Rachel, a homeschooled fifth grader, is the team's 30-point member. Allyssa and Ashley fill in a second 10-point position (because there are more 10-point cards than the others) and the 20-point spot.

"It's definitely a team thing," Hannah said. "You can't do it if you're missing one person."

Rachel said while at nationals team members also made sure they were positive, even when they missed questions.

Coaches said staying sharp was difficult. With 14 rounds, the days were long. Competition began at 8:30 a.m. and often continued until 5 p.m. The heat was turned up during an overtime match.

"Keeping alert was tough," Ditty and Holley said. "The team had to make it through the slumps."

Some of the pressure eased after the team survived the first day of competition.

"We knew Saturday we'd be in the top 10," Ditty said.

Control and patience played a role as well.

Buzzing in too early can cost a team big points. Once a team buzzes in, the reader doesn't finish the question. A team is penalized for a wrong answer, half the question's point total, and the other team has an opportunity to answer correctly.

Holley and Ditty said it can get intense, but the bottom line is the kids and their knowledge.

"It's a fun way to learn scripture and values," they said.

"We know that kids that practice (Bible Quiz) stay true to their faith," Ditty said.

"It teaches them a lot of discipline," Holley said. "It's been great. I'd love to see more kids get involved."

This year they did see more kids involved. In addition to the Northwest Family Church team, Hannah's mom, Deanna, helped field two other teams from a combination of Enumclaw area churches during the regular season.

Holley and Ditty said they find the kids apply what they learn to real life.

"I've hidden your word in my heart that I may not sin against you," Rachel smiles rattling off Psalm 119-11.

And better yet, the coaches say, the girls are anxious to get started on next year.

Rachel and Hannah don't hesitate with a chorus of "yes" about defending their title, which the group believes, has never been done.

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com.

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