Behind the Scenes of the 2021 Fall Reading Competition Team


Ethan Hileman

The team was exited about the competition at Bellwood-Antis High School. The team had nine students and Justina McCaulley as the advisor.

Not many people know about this competition team in our school. This team instead of involving blood, sweat, and tears, use their mental capability. The team read 30 books. In November they went to Bellwood-Antis High School and participated in three rounds of competition.

The members enjoyed the competition and being a part of the team. Even though the reading competition is more mental than physical, these competitors still experience some of the same emotions as sports competitors do when it is time to compete. 


Eighth grader Billie Burket is the captain on the reading competition team. Photographed by Miley Naugle.


“I felt excited while on the way to the competition. However when I got to the competition, I admit that I did feel a bit overwhelmed.”

— Billie Burket

Eighth graders Emma Garhart and Billie Burket are exited while on the way to the competition. Photographed by Miley Naugle.


Burket said, “Being the team captain was exciting. I was the only one the judges would listen to, and I had to give the answer to the judges after the team agreed on it.” 

She read between 5 or 6 books and really contributed to the team! For the competition, there were 3 rounds and we had time to prepare while we waited for the round to start. For each round we were in a different room with a different team.

“The best part of the competition was the time before it actually started because we had time to prepare, we got a feel of the classroom, the other team and what was going on,” said Burket.


The reading team talked about the books before the start of the competition. Photographed by Miley Naugle.

Burket said, “The rounds were similar but different. We were asked questions about the same books, but the questions were different every time.” They competed in a total of 3 rounds, which they won 2 of 3.

“My favorite round was the first because we had lots of time in the room beforehand. My least favorite round was the third one because I accidentally said the answer,” said Burket while laughing.

It was really the other team’s turn; the team all had a good laugh about it though. 


Seventh grader Marlee Traveny another member of the reading competition team poses for a photo in the library. Photographed by Miley Naugle.

Traveny said, “At the competition, I was nervous, but I was also excited. There were some questions that were hard to answer, especially ones about the books that I read over the summer.” 

On the other hand there were questions that were easier for her to answer.

“The questions that were easier were about the books I didn’t read, but I studied the summaries on them right before the competition,” says Traveny.

There were lots of exciting parts to the competition.


The reading competition team sits in a hallaway at Bellwood- Antis High School while waiting for the competition the start. Photographed by Miley Naugle.


Traveny said, “I think the team overall was pretty well prepared for the competition. I think we should have put flyers around the school to get more people involved because there are lots of students out there that love to read and we didn’t get to them all.” 

She wanted to join the team for one main reason.

“I just wanted to read more and get into reading because I wasn’t a reading person. Now I like reading more than anything. I would like to do a spring competition if we could,” said Traveny.


Justina McCaulley is the advisor of the reading competition team. Photographed by Miley Naugle.


Ironically, advisor Justina McCaulley noticed a common theme that my two other sources mentioned as well: the van ride to the competition was the highlight for all involved.

McCaulley said, “The best part for me was the van ride down. That was the first time I have ever taken a van to the competition, normally we take a bus and we are all spaced out. In the van we had the radio going and we were singing, and I really got to see the girls get to know each other. That was the best part of the competition for me personally, getting to know the team on a personal level.”


McCaulley was very proud of her team, she is glad that they did their best and did everything they could to contribute to the final score. 


The team celebrates after winning their second round. Photographed by Justina McCaulley.


McCaulley said, “The worst part of the competition was trying to answer the questions to the books we hadn’t read yet. The only reason we had books we didn’t read is because we were a small team. Only 9 students joined the team and they had to read 30 books in a little over 2 months, which is a lot of reading to ask.”

There were some titles that the students hadn’t read, but that is to be expected for a small team.

McCaulley said, “I think our team did a great job preparing. I think the books we did read we knew pretty well since we won 2 out of 3rounds. I think we did alright!”

This year’s team differed in multiple ways from past teams.

“I had a smaller team, which definitely was an advantage because we got to know each other better, but a disadvantage because we didn’t get all the books read, and we didn’t have a lot of people who read certain titles so that was a disadvantage. The last time I did this was in 2019, and I actually had 2 teams because I had so many kids. I had to take 4 chaperones down, and we had to split for 2 different teams. I had to try and be in 2 places at once, so that was difficult,” said McCaulley.

McCaulley wanted to make sure her team knew that she had their back, and she was with them no matter what.

McCaulley said, “Billie Burket was the team captain, she listened to the team and she gave the answers to the judges when it was our turn. This is such a huge responsibility, and she handled it amazingly.”

Having only 2 months is hard to prepare a team for reading competition.

“The team scored a total of 24 points: the first round we had 6, and sadly we lost that round,” said McCaulley.

The team was new to taking part in the competition, so during the first round, the team was still getting prepared, but they did well for their first time.

“In the second round, we did even better, we scored 8 points, and we won that round. The third and final round we won with our best score of 10 points!” said McCaulley.


Two eighth graders share a high-five in excitement after the team won the second round. Photographed by Miley Naugle.


McCaulley was happy the team kept improving and that they progressively got better and better each round. The competition in the spring is about 3 hours away, so sadly our team cannot go due to the time, distance and the amount of money it would cost. 

This team worked so hard, they never gave up and throughout everything they still found time to have fun and enjoy every part of it.

“This year, I can honestly say, you guys were the most committed team I had. In years past I have had a lot of kids drop out along the way. You guys stayed committed, and I think that we would be a great and strong spring team if we could go,” said McCaulley.