UPDATE AS OF 8 A.M., 3/11 – THE OOTM REGIONAL TOURNAMENT HAS BEEN MOVED TO SUNDAY, MARCH 13
32 Odyssey of the Mind (OOTM) teams from seven local school districts will compete this
Saturday, March 12 at the Johnstown Junior-Senior High School in a regional tournament to determine which teams from Region 21 will move on to the New York state competition.
Johnstown had been in line to host the regional competition in March of 2020, but the onset of COVID-19 meant that the event had to be canceled just days beforehand.
“We were expecting to host 65 teams and about 2,000 people at the regional competition in 2020,” said Kristin Meashaw, the district-wide OOTM coordinator for the Greater Johnstown School District and AIS teacher at Warren Street Elementary.
“We had a DJ booked, inflatable bounce houses lined up, events for the kids to attend throughout the day, and a big awards ceremony planned. We’re excited to finally be coming back to a sense of normalcy, but we’ve still had to scale back this year’s event from what we had originally planned for 2020,” she added.
Indeed, the general public is not able to attend
Saturday’s competition and each student is allowed just three spectators. Meashaw says she expects nearly 800 people to be in attendance on Saturday, including students, volunteers, coaches, judges. The awards ceremony will be conducted virtually at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Meashaw started the OOTM program in Johnstown in 2014, after being an active participant with her children’s teams in the Broadalbin-Perth School District. 2014-15 was a “practice year,” as she calls it, and Johnstown officially launched its program for the 2015-16 school year.
The program has grown very quickly in the district. This year, 12 out of the 32 teams competing in regionals will be from the Greater Johnstown School District, including six Division I teams (two teams from third, fourth and fifth grades), five Division II teams (two teams from sixth and seventh grades and one from eighth grade) and one Division III team (eleventh grade). All team coaches are volunteers.
Saturday’s regional competition is the first step for local teams to chart their way to the New York state competition and ultimately, to the famed World Finals. The 2022 state competition will be held at the end of March at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse, NY. The World Finals will take place at Iowa State University at the end of May.
Johnstown’s lone Division III team in eleventh grade has been together since they were in fifth grade. Meashaw describes the team as being “very seasoned,” as is evidenced by the fact that they have been to the World Finals three times.
“It is very rare for a team to make it to the World Finals as many times as our eleventh graders have – but they really are that good,” Meashaw said. Each year, 15-18 teams compete at the state level and only the top two teams in each division are able to go to the World Finals. “My ultimate goal is to have more than one Johnstown team get to worlds because it truly is the experience of a lifetime,” she added.
The OOTM program at Johnstown is for students in third through twelfth grade. Sign-ups take place in September, with a district-wide launch event in October. Meashaw says the program provides “enrichment for all the things that you don’t always have time to cover in the classroom,” and says the benefits of participating are endless.
“Students are building skills in problem solving, budgeting, time management, public speaking and learning how to work together as a team to accomplish a goal — all skills that will help them as an adult,” she said.