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They called themselves The Souls. They told Mrs. Olinski that they were The Souls long before they were a team, but she told them that they were a team as soon as they became The Souls. Then after a while, teacher and team agreed that they were arguing chicken-or-egg. (1.3)
The five eventually decide here that, like a chicken and an egg, the team and The Souls are so tied together that one can't exist without the other. But we'll never know what actually came first.
People still remark about how extraordinary it was to have four sixth graders make it to the finals. There had been a few seventh graders scattered among the other teams, but all the rest of the middle school regional champs were eighth graders. Epiphany had never before won even the local championship, and there they were, up on stage, ready to compete for the state trophy. (1.4)
The Souls are brand new to academic competitions. They're the underdogs. Nobody expects them to even get past the seventh graders at their own school, and they go on to win the entire championship.
Unlike football bowls, there had been no season tallies for the academic teams. There had been no best-of-five. Each contest had been an elimination round. There were winners, and there were losers. From the start, the rule was: Lose one game, and you are out. (1.5)
It's almost as though the narrator is saying academic competitions are harder than sports competitions, because the academic teams only get one chance. Sudden death. No second chances.
Having a teacher who didn't know I had an older brother would be a welcome change.
There is nothing wrong with Lucas, and that is what is wrong with him. He is a genius, a star athlete, and is always doing something wonderful and/or record setting. ("Ethan Explains the B and B Inn".7-8)
Ethan may be new to the Academic Bowl, but he's not new to competition. In fact, he's been competing all his life. Unfortunately, it's with own his brother—and for all we know, it's one-sided. Luke doesn't seem too concerned about Ethan.
Nadia ignored Noah. She said to Ethan, "If I do have Ginger try out, she will get the part. Ginger is a genius." ("Julian Narrates When Ginger Played Annie's Sandy".10)
There's never any question in Nadia's mind: Ginger is absolutely always going to be the best dog for the job, and so there's no competition. Nadia can't think of a world where Ginger doesn't win.
"Ginger is having a day off. It was Mrs. Reynolds's idea. Mike Froelich has been so good about coming to rehearsals, and Arnold has become so well trained that Mrs. Reynolds decided to let him play Sandy at this performance."
"Oh," I said, "when did you find out?"
"Just this morning. Do not worry. Arnold is only a substitute. Ginger will appear at all of the evening performances." ("Julian Narrates When Ginger Played Annie's Sandy".103-105)
Nadia is nice enough to let the understudy dog, Arnold, have a chance to perform too. It's not her idea, but she certainly doesn't make a fuss about it. It's a two-for-one that, by being kind, Nadia actually saves Ginger from getting sick.
The deadline for choosing an academic team was the Tuesday following the winter holiday. The other homeroom teachers were ready by Thanksgiving. They held mini contests in their classrooms and had selected the winners of those. They had ready answers for anyone who asked how they had chosen their teams. (5.1)
All the other teams at Epiphany (and for all we know, all the other school teams competing in the New York State Academic Bowl) are chosen through competition. Seems fair, right? Well, maybe being "fair" isn't always right.
Their path to the state finals started with the sixth-grade championship. Mrs. Olinski had expected victory, for her team was quick and informed and worked together perfectly. No one had expected them to trounce the other two sixth grades, but they did. (6.6)
It's practically not even a competition. Mrs. Olinski's team is so much better that it "trounces" the other teams.
Other victories followed, but none was sweeter. (7.40)
This "victor[y]" isn't the one that wins The Souls the state championship; it's also not the first competition, where they beat the other sixth graders. Instead, it occurs in the middle of their journey, and it's the one where the school really begins to rally around Mrs. Olinski. For the Souls, this is mission accomplished.
It was dark when Mrs. Olinski left Sillington House, and she was glad. The dark wrapped the afternoon around her and kept it close. Sillington House was its own place. She lifted one hand from the steering wheel, whipped it off to one side, and snapped her fingers. She laughed. The Finger Lakes Regional Championship was in the bag. (8.70)
They've practiced so hard, and they are so ready, and they are so good. Nobody else can stand up to them, and it's almost laughable that anyone else would try. No wonder Mrs. Olinski laughs.
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