A Scrabble craze has swept Girl Scout troops across the Valley, and the fervor carried two Scottsdale students all the way to the National School Scrabble Championship this weekend in Rhode Island.
Cheyenne Traditional School fifth-graders MacKenzie Caswell, 11, and Morgan Sands, 10, teamed up in Providence for two wins in six games at the event, which featured 100 duos in grades five through eight from schools across the country.
“It’s fun,” Morgan said. “Everytime you play you get to find out new words.”
“And you feel smarter,” MacKenzie added.
But instead of representing their school — like the other 99 teams at the two-day event — the Scottsdale friends became the first to represent a Girl Scout troop.
That was possible through a pilot program that Girl Scouts of the USA and the National Scrabble Association launched this year in the Arizona Cactus-Pines Council. MacKenzie and Morgan won the council championship April 15 in Tempe and finished 78th on Saturday in Rhode Island.
Cactus-Pines official Margaret Spicer said the board game quickly became a favorite activity with many troops once they started playing.
“After the groups started practicing for the tournament, that’s all they wanted to do,” Spicer said. “It’s been phenomenal.”
Girl Scouts of the USA is even crafting a Scrabble badge for troop members to earn, and the organization will spread the game to other councils in time for the 2008 national tournament.
Soon, Girl Scout teams may be common at the national tournament. But MacKenzie and Morgan will always be the first.
“I got to meet a lot of people and talk to people from all over the country,” MacKenzie said. “And I’ve never been to Rhode Island, so it was fun to see what it looked like.”
Morgan also said she also enjoyed the team format, which allowed her to compete with MacKenzie, who has been her friend since fourth grade.
One thing the girls enjoyed less was facing older and more experienced teams.
“Competing against older people makes it really hard,” Morgan said. “We never really won against any of the older people.”
After the girls lost all three games Friday, they admitted they were feeling a bit discouraged. But they came back on Saturday and won two of three games.
“That was a lot of fun when we started winning,” Morgan said. Even in their losses, the girls still welcomed the challenge of squeezing the most points possible out of the tiles in their pallette. They threw down obscure words such as “vants” and “kat,” and they laid down “quiz” in one game as a triple word score for 66 points.
“It’s fun to get a lot of points and see what your highest score is,” MacKenzie said.