EDWARDS — No one on Vail Christian High School’s state champion academic decathlon is ever going slam dunk. They don’t have to. Dunking is a perishable skill, but intellectual prowess is not.
Vail Christian High School’s academic decathlon team won its state second state title in three years and is on its way to Honolulu for the nationals.
The Saints also won the 2012 state title, but so many kids were performing in the school play and doing other things, they couldn’t make the trip. The nationals that year were not in Hawaii.
“Knowing it was in Hawaii, it was our goal to win and go,” said Barbara Wilson, the team sponsor and a Vail Christian Spanish teacher.
One team was so confident that they bought tickets to Hawaii before the state competition. The Vail Christian kids know stuff about the Bible and that Proverbs 16:18 tells us that “pride cometh before the fall.”
Prior to state, Christian Bohren had a decision to make. He could either follow the basketball team to a playoff game in Loveland or compete with the academic decathlon team and earn a trip to Hawaii.
They need to raise about $20,000 to send 10 people.
Winning with grace
The awards ceremony was nerve-racking. As winners for each individual category were announced, Vail Christian and Frontier Academy kept trading the lead.
Eventually, Vail Christian won 60 of the 90 individual medals at the state competition.
Finally, it was time for the team winners. It was a little like the Miss Universe pageant. As soon as Frontier Academy was announced as the runner-up, the Vail Christian contingent went berserk, as gracefully as one could.
“For some of our competitors, this is what they do. They prepare for this all year long,” Bohren said.
“These people are in everything,” Bohren said, sweeping his hand around the room to his teammates. “The kids in here are able to budget their time.”
Yes, they’re in it to win it. But they’re also in it for each other, and they can’t win it if their teammates aren’t strong, said Mary Sweet.
“We go to school in an outgoing community, and that helps with speech and interview,” Sweet said. “We influence each other in positive ways, instead of cutting each other down.”
They get together two days a week to train, learning massive stacks of material. Teachers come in to help with specific subject areas. The students have to give up something — art, music, phys-ed — to take a class that will require an enormous commitment of time and energy, Wilson said.
They also teach each other. In the car headed to state, a couple team members were teaching Christina Cheesman about molecular biology. In turn, she taught them some economics.
At the state competition, they take a battery of seven tests, write an essay, give a speech and interview with the judges.
“We studied every subject in every packet, and that makes us unique as a team,” Bohren said. “What also makes us unique is that we drive each other on. We were all able to do well in certain subjects. We also do well in our interview and speech, and that speaks well to Mrs. Wilson.”
People ask them some seriously silly questions, such as, “How many events are there?”
“We compete in 10 events,” said Larkin Smith, smiling sweetly as she adds that that’s why it’s called a “decathlon.”
The test results are simple, even if the tests are not. The teams with the highest scores win. Every test is worth 1,000 points, said Elizabeth Angarola.
“It’s difficult. We all have different categories we’re best at, but everyone takes every test,” Angarola said.
The war to end no wars
This year’s theme is World War I, both at state and the national competition. They learned everything about it, especially how war begets more war.
“The war was a clash of time periods. We saw the Victorian era fall and a more industrialized era ushered in,” said Bohren, who won the history category.
In that vortex, the two eras collided and war was the result. Millions of people died.
“You saw all these armies who didn’t know why they were fighting,” Bohren said.
The League of Nations failed because it wanted Germany and the other aggressing countries to pay the costs to rebuild Europe, Bohren explained. It left Germany completely destitute, and into that void stepped the powers that led to World War II.
“The failed diplomacy of World War I gave rise to World War II,” Bohren said.
World War I also launched war as a commodity to be sold.
“It was the beginning of propaganda convincing people to go to war,” Vanessa Siriwalothakul said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.