Road to the finals: Vail Christian wins sixth state academic decathlon championship |

Road to the finals: Vail Christian wins sixth state academic decathlon championship

From left is Vail Christian High School's academic decathlon team: Jake Nowicki, Isabelle Carlson, Katie Keith, Jasmine Hartman-Budnik, Alexis Ehrlich, Alex Bullock, Caitlin Bishop. The team won their sixth state academic decathlon title, and is headed to Frisco, Texas, in April for the nationals.
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EDWARDS — Vail Christian High School’s Saints won their sixth state academic decathlon title. So, along with all the other stuff they know, the Saints now know how it feels to put down a slam dunk to beat Duke at the buzzer.

It feels like winning your sixth state academic decathlon title, is what it feels like. They are headed to the nationals in Frisco, Texas, in April.

However, their sixth title wasn’t a buzzer-beater. Vail Christian rolled up 30,374 points, flogging the runner-up by 2,000 points. In the world of academic decathlon, that’s a landslide.

Every member of the nine-member team earned medals — five seniors, three juniors and a sophomore.

“It was truly a team effort this year,” coach Barbara Wilson said. “I want to give a shout-out to all of our amazing teachers who have provided the solid foundation for our students in essay writing, mathematics, science, economics and social science, which allows me to coach these students to the best of their abilities.”

Wilson has coached the team for almost 10 years and has four state titles.

Speech showcase

Jasmine Hartman-Budnik, a junior, won the Speech Showcase and also had the team’s highest overall score.

“The most exciting part of the competition for me is actually right before the speeches or tests. Everyone has butterflies in their stomachs, yet this is when we all try to pump each other up and really come together as a team to support each other,” Hartman-Budnik said.

You can listen to these kids speak for minutes at a stretch and not hear one of them say, “Yo, dude,” or “like,” as in, “Yo, dude, my name is, like, Brent.”

To which you must ask God to grant you the strength to keep from asking, “Is you name something like Brent, or is it actually Brent?”

For that reason and several others, the Saints tend to dominate the Speech Showcase.

Seniors Brookelyn Kraft and Isabelle Carlson have previously won Speech Showcase for having one of the top three speeches at the state competition.

Smart kid smackdown

When it comes to smart kid smackdown, no one smacks like the Saints.

Each year, the competition has a different theme. A few years ago, the state academic decathlon was about innovations in sustainable and environmentally friendly energy, which is way more complex than strapping on a Greenpeace T-shirt.

This year, it was about Africa. Six of the seven multiple-choice sections are related to the theme:

• Economics

• Science

• Social Science

• Art

• Music

• Literature

Mathematics is the only section not related to the theme, because … math.

Yes, there will be a test, seven tests, in fact, and they’ll be hard.

Brain training

The team gets together a few times a week to train, learning massive stacks of material. But there’s so much more they need to know.

They have all kinds of late-night study sessions during which they pound as much information into their heads as they can and break it down into tiny bits to figure out how it’s all interconnected … and it always is.

Teachers come in to help with specific subject areas. Team members give up something — art, music, physical education — to take this class, which will require an enormous commitment of time and energy, Wilson said.

Vail Christian High School is small, so they get to know one another and how everyone learns.

“We can all teach each other,” Smith said.

And they do.

And the winner is …

The awards ceremony is a little like the Miss Universe pageant. The longer they don’t call your name, the happier you are.

One year, another team was so confident that they had bought tickets to Hawaii before the state competition. Along with enough stuff to win an academic decathlon, the Vail Christian kids know stuff about the Bible. For example, Proverbs 16:18 tells us that “Pride cometh before the fall.”

There is no instant gratification. They had to wait all day.

It was worth it.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and

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