Many Gahanna middle school scribes are advancing to the regional Power of the Pen competition at New Albany Middle School on Saturday, March 15, after teams swept district competition Feb. 22 at Gahanna Middle School South.

Many Gahanna middle school scribes are advancing to the regional Power of the Pen competition at New Albany Middle School on Saturday, March 15, after teams swept district competition Feb. 22 at Gahanna Middle School South.

Gahanna Middle School East's seventh- and eighth-grade teams placed first at districts. Gahanna Middle School South's eighth-grade team placed second, and Gahanna Middle School West's eighth-grade team placed third among 22 schools from central Ohio.

"We are extremely proud of our first-place win and are looking forward to competing at the (regional) tournament," said Jessica L. Anderson, Middle School East seventh-grade coach. "My seventh-grade team did a phenomenal job of being dedicated, attending weekly practices before school. I was quite honestly critiquing their essays, and they really reflected on my comments. As a classroom teacher, it is wonderful to see their writing develop and strengthen over time.

"When they called the seventh-grade team as the first-place winners, I believe that the entire gymnasium felt/heard my enthusiasm for my students," she said. "I am so proud of the team and their accomplishments at the district tournament."

East's eighth-grade coach, Kelli Sprosty, said her team is a very talented group of writers who experienced a great deal of success last year and have all come back committed to excellence again this year.

"Their ability to craft creative, descriptive and emotional pieces in only 40 minutes is truly remarkable," she said.

Among the schools represented at the district tourney were Dublin, Columbus, Olentangy, Delaware and New Albany.

The Middle School East seventh-grade team comprises Alli Aldis, Hila Eitam, Mackenzie Hebert, McKenzie Hiland, Kyle Mair, Reagan Mounts and alternates Megan Henry and Joseph Nungesser.

Middle School East's eighth-grade team includes Sarah Coon, April Finch, Colin Jordan, Jared Mair, Morgan McCreary, Madison Weldon and alternates Savannah Barrett and Sarah Heaberlin.

Members of the Middle School South seventh-grade team are Bianca Barton, Amani Djouadi, Gage Francis, Dakota Jordan, Isabelle Lindsey, Meghan Prange and alternates Alyson Adam and Gunnar Francis.

Middle School South's eighth-grade team members are Kaitlyn Bartholemew, Yasemin Gokcen, Olivia Hatfield, Elyse Merideth, Justine Orr, Elizabeth Parry and alternates Piper Seaton and Sammie Stafford.

Members of Middle School West's eighth-grade team, coached by Morgan Magers, are Dani Biro, Makayli Bosaw, Rhiannon McDevitt, Kortney McLain, Samantha Segaloff, Ben Stemen and alternate Katie Crabtree. West had no seventh-grade team this year.

"I was very proud of the unique approaches they took to the various prompts," Magers said. "The students are using techniques that set their writing apart from others."

Anderson, a first-year coach, said East students try out to be a part of the team.

The students are required to write a narrative from a prompt given to them at tryouts. They have 40 minutes to write their essays, with no prior knowledge of the prompt given.

Each seventh- and eighth-grade team is selected after the coaches have read all of the essays, and then the top eight or nine writers from each grade are selected for the team.

Anderson said more than 40 students tried out for this year's team.

After the teams are formed, she said, they practice weekly, writing from selected prompts.

She provides students with writing tips and helps them with vocabulary and different aspects of fictional, creative writing.

Although both seventh- and eighth-grade teams from East won first place in the team category, Anderson said, she hasn't been notified about individual students who will advance to the regional competition. She said the top 50 percent of writers from the district competition will advance to regionals.

Individually, seventh-grader Mounts won first place, and Eitam won fifth at district.

East eighth-grade individual winners were Weldon, fifth; McCrary, seventh; Coon, eighth; and Jordan, 13th. Coon also won a "Best of Round" award for her response to the prompt, "The Witness."

Out of 22 first-place papers in the round, Coon's was chosen as the top writing piece.

Sprosty said all award winners will advance, and she expects Jared Mair and April Finch to advance to regionals based on their district scores.

Middle School West's Ben Stemen received individual honors, placing first, and Middle School South's Elizabeth Parry placed second.

"Students who won individual awards and the top 50 percent of all writers at our tournament will advance to the regional tournament," said Libby Debney, Middle School South coach.

She said the top 20 percent of writers from the regional tournament would advance to the state tournament at the College of Wooster in May.

Power of the Pen, originally called Olympics of the Pen, started in 1985-86 as a single interscholastic writing tournament at Nordonia Junior High School, with 170 students and 28 teacher-judges from 15 neighboring school districts participating.

It was founded by Lorraine B. Merrill, who wanted a season of interscholastic writing events for the best young writers in Ohio.

It has expanded to provide in-class instructional assistants to serve more than 120,000 students in Ohio this year. More than 7,500 of those students are expected to compete directly in a Power of the Pen tournament.