Prize-winning problem solvers: Nevada County students score awards at third annual Sudoku tournament |

Prize-winning problem solvers: Nevada County students score awards at third annual Sudoku tournament

Jerry Martin
Special to The Union

The cafeteria of Nevada Union High School was filled with excited, motivated elementary and middle school students, second through seventh grades, and their proud parents.

They were gathered late last month to compete in the Third Annual Children’s Team Sudoku Tournament, a program designed to promulgate the use of the powerful and fun puzzle as a tool to train logical thinking habits in our children.

Twenty-one teams of boys and girls, three or four per team, from Deer Creek, Seven Hills, Union Hill, Scotten, Lyman Gilmore, Bell Hill, Echo Ridge Christian, Forest Charter and Nevada City School of the Arts raced to complete two enlarged Sudoku puzzles. The contest had one hard puzzle to challenge the experienced solvers and one easy puzzle to satisfy the beginners. Winning teams had to complete both correctly.

On the first-place team from Nevada City School of the Arts were four sixth-grade boys, Preston Osypowski, Connor Heenan, Emmet Jones and Liam Quinn, who finished in 22 minutes and 19 seconds. They had been coached for three months by math and science teacher Ben Preston. Their victory was remarkable because they had made a mistake earlier, a problem which usually eliminates most teams from contention. But they were able to quickly find and correct their only mistake and then resubmit their puzzles for top honors.

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The second-place team was from Seven Hills, comprised by three fifth-grade boys, Spencer Rodgers, Brandon McCallum, Lucas Frisella, and a sixth-grade girl, Mackenzie Rist. The team, coached by fifth-grade teacher Julie Bair, completed both puzzles in 29 minutes and 36 seconds. Spencer and Brandon had been in previous tournaments, Brandon on a first-place team last year. Mackenzie and Lucas were new to team Sudoku competition this year. Two months training during their half hour lunch break (while eating pizza) paid off, producing a much coveted second place.

The third-place winners brought more glory to Nevada City School of the Arts, when a team of three girls and a boy finished in a thrilling wave of elation. This was unusual, as none of them had experienced a previous tournament, and one was relatively new to Sudoku. But they worked together and utilized their skills efficiently. The three girls were Hailey Fischer, Sophia Lemmonier, both sixth graders, Chiana McCrea, a fifth grader, and Tavish Dungan, a sixth-grade boy.

This tournament was made possible by the volunteering of 19 members of the Nevada County Sudoku Society. Soroptimist International of the Sierra Foothills donated a sizable grant which covered most of our expenses. Three Sudoku puzzle book publishers, Sudoku Wisdom, St. Martin’s Press and Nikoli, donated puzzle books, one of which was given to every child. Sudoku Wisdom publishes The Tao of Sudoku, written by local author Cristina Smith, who was emceed along with a Marin County Sudoku enthusiast, Joyce Anastasia. Both puzzles used in the tournament were taken from Cristina’s book.

The Getz Family donated movie tickets for all 3 winning teams. Local artist Una Kobrin created a beautiful collage with a Sudoku theme, four framed copies of which were awarded to the first place winners.

Jerry Martin is president of the Nevada County Sudoku Society.

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