DURHAM — Thirty students from Oyster River Middle School boarded a school bus on June 13 bound for a field trip to York Beach, Maine.
Instead of enjoying the beach on this hot June day, they spent the day doing something completely unexpected: playing bridge. Directors Charles Felton and Richard Dionne, who run the Tuesday duplicate bridge game, hosted the group at the Union Congregational Church in York Beach.
Oyster River Middle School has one of the largest and most successful youth bridge clubs in New England, with more than 50 current members. Lisa and Nate Allison, of Lee,run the bridge club, assisted by more than a dozen experienced bridge players who take turns volunteering to teach the classic card game to the middle schoolers.
At the game, three pairs in each direction won Master Points from the American Contract Bridge League. Winners in the North-South direction were Chris Jernigan, of Lee, and Leo Klump, of Durham, with a 66 percent game. They are experienced bridge players who took second place earlier this year in a multi-state tournament.
James Li of Durham and Olaf Woodall, of Lee, also had a 66 percent game, taking first place in the East–West direction. They just started learning bridge in September 2016. William Johnson and Hannah Muessig, of Lee, finished second for North-South with a 63 percent game.
Haley Fields, of Madbury, and Emma Hampton, of Durham, played a 60 percent game to finish third North-South.
Among the East-West players, Andre Boufama, of Madbury, and Talia Banafato, of Durham, took second place with a 63 percent game and Cayden Giordani ,of Lee, and Sarah Laliberte, of Madbury, came in third with a 60 percent game.
When the bus arrived in York Beach, the directors had to set up extra tables to accommodate all of the students. They began playing right away and with just a short break to grab a slice of pizza, the students played for four hours, finishing 14 boards. The directors and the adults playing bridge in the next room were thrilled to see so many young people playing bridge. They were amazingly tolerant of the noise that came from kids having fun.
Director Charles Felton said, “We enjoyed having your group and are enthused that the youths are learning the game of Duplicate Bridge! ” He extended an invitation for the Oyster River bridge players to return to York Beach next June.