Student athletes aren't the only people at Rhea County High School with competitive natures. For Kari Ballentine of Dayton, the competition has finally paid off. Ballentine said she has always loved writing. As a theater arts, English and creative writing teacher at Rhea County High School, and an English, Composition I and Literature for Children professor at Chattanooga State in Dayton, Ballentine said she always makes sure she can do an assignment before assigning it to students. This practice has proved to be a benefit. "I'm surprised by how many good pieces I get out of 'assignments,'" she said. Having submitted various works to other writing contests, and generally winning first or second place, this contest was nothing out of the ordinary for Ballentine. However, the end result was much different. Ballentine submitted a poem for the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund Poetry Contest. According to the fund's website, the awards are given to poets "with unusual promise." Established in honor of Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg, a poet who published poems in prestigious publications, the fund awards between $125,000 and $200,000 a year to deserving poets. Ballentine submitted a poetry work titled Midsummer's Eve, a work that was actually inspired by some time she spent in Ireland. "[The poem] actually came from one of my trips to Ireland and hearing the Irish myths associated with that magical night," Ballentine said. Ballentine learned about her award through an e-mail from Mary Rosenberg, the late sponsor's second wife. Surprised, she checked the website to see for herself. Ballentine's poem won third place. Though not first or second, she was still thrilled. The third place prize was $5,000. "I was a little giddy to tell the truth," she said. "The most money I'd ever won in a contest was $75, and that was by winning both first and second place. It was unbelievable until I had the check in hand." Though $5,000 is nice padding for the pocket, Ballentine said she does have some school bills to pay, though she quickly presented another idea. "I'll probably go back to Ireland to see if I can create any more $5,000 poems." Needless to say, Ballentine is not the only person who is pleased with her win. "I think it is wonderful," Assistant Superintendent Ray Fugate said. "One of our own is recognized for her gifts. I am really proud of her." Tiffany Soyster can be reached at