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Wednesday, October 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Brainy Girls Find It’s Cool To Be Smart

Heather Branstetter’s forte is the periodic table. Amanda Henry specializes in the amendments. Lucia Gregory does it all.

“I’m miscellaneous,” Lucia says, laughing. “But I try to know the presidents. I’m lucky if they ask something I know.”

The girls are part of Wallace High School’s scholastic team, which recently dusted 60 other Class B contenders to win the state championship.

These kids correctly answered dozens of questions about geometric angles and layers of skin, Emily Dickinson’s poetry and Thomas Edison’s inventions.

“At state, the night before the competition, they wanted to practice while all these other kids are running around the halls,” says Dick Schreiber, Wallace’s 40-something scholastic team coach. “I couldn’t get them to stop practicing. I had to make kids stop learning.”

A teacher’s dream - and these kids don’t act like eggheads. They don’t even wear pocket protectors like the whiz kids on television sitcoms.

“This is not the nerd squad,” Dick says. “When we came back from state, the student body cheered.”

Of course kids cheered - because Dick has made it cool to be smart. He’s trained his team to snap out answers and face down intimidation. He’s encouraged general knowledge but also assigned his players specific areas.

He’s supplied buzzers for them so Monday lunchtime practices are as real as head-to-head competition. Dick’s math classroom is as popular at noon on Mondays as McDonald’s.

Over seven years of coaching, Dick’s learned strategy. Scholastic meets don’t differ much from basketball games. His cool confidence has rubbed off on his team and the trips to state championships have multiplied.

Dick’s planning to take his team to nationals next year, after the rules change and smaller schools are eligible. Heather, who’s only 15, is ready.

“It’s scary,” she says. “But I love it when I know the answer to a question.”

Turf time

Gambler or not, you can’t beat the thrill of the race. That’s why the American Heart Association is banking on Kentucky Derby Day May 3 at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds to raise big money.

The heart association’s six horses won’t sweat and snort through the eight races. They’ll be stick horses that “jockeys” move around a carpeted track according to the numbers that come up on a spinning wheel.

The horses cost owners $1,000 each, but the price didn’t deter Hecla Mining Co., Three Cs, Tom Addis Dodge, Coeur d’Alene Cardiology, Knudtsen Chevrolet or Kootenai Medical Center’s nuclear medicine division.

General admission costs $35 and includes lunch and a token to “vote” for winners. If you’ve complained about the same old fund-raising events every year, here’s something new. Buy your tickets at any U.S. Bank.

Dog days

The grumbles against dog owners - not dogs - continue. How many share Coeur d’Alene’s Susie Snedaker’s complaint that her neighbors let their dogs out at night to relieve themselves in other people’s yards, but never appear to clean up the messes?

For Buttercup

A Coeur d’Alene man and his wife always marked spring by finding the first buttercups. The man is 90 now and his wife died recently, but the spring ritual didn’t. He just skipped a family gathering because the buttercups were due and he wanted to leave some on his wife’s grave.

Where are the best spring flowers in your area? Point them out to Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83814; fax to 765-7149; call 765-7128; or e-mail to

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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