Vail Christian wins state academic decathlon title |

Vail Christian wins state academic decathlon title

NWS Decathlon Winners DT 3-21-12

EDWARDS, Colorado – No one can slam dunk forever, but if you’re smart you’re smart for the rest of your life.

Like these kids from Vail Christian High School who won a state title in the academic decathlon.

Nine Saints competed in 10 events – hence the name “decathlon” – and won 32 individual awards. Mack Cooper won six gold medals, and everyone else won a bunch of events, too.

The decathlon, these kids knew, was invented by the ancient Greeks. The state championship event was in Fort Morgan.

“Fort Morgan is kind of like Athens. They both take a long time to get to,” Cooper said.

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Then again, in an academic decathlon no one sweats all that much, unless they’re really, really nervous.

The decathlon was built around the Age of Empire and they had to read Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” which is not only good for you, it’s good. The novella was published in 1903 and was classified by the Modern Library website editors as one of the “100 best novels” and named part of the Western canon.

They didn’t know that before they started preparing, but now they do, and so do you.

Anyway, they scorched the essay competition, a three-minute speech, a minute and a half speech and seven tests that took about 30 minutes each, said Barbara Wilson, Vail Christian’s Spanish teacher and academic decathlon coach.

They had to put together a resume for an interview. It’s sort of like a job interview where the judges determine how well they present themselves.

The length of the interview varies, but no matter how long it lasted they had to go the entire time without saying “like.”

They had their speech subject well in advance, and the ones who medaled used some of that time to prepare, Wilson said.

They could talk about any subject they chose. Cooper, for example, is a guitarist and musician, so he talked about the importance of music in society.

They took seven tests that lasted about 30 minutes each: Music, art, science, math, economics, language and literature, and the super quiz – mostly geography and history from the Age of Empire.

The Saints won the Super Quiz relay. You answer five questions, then a teammate pops up and takes the next five.

“We had many different things to prepare for,” Cooper said.

As you can imagine, some teams prepared better than others. They soon learned that Sun Tzu was correct – “The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare.” But alas, that was not one of the questions, even though the Saints had it down.

Cooper won six gold medals: Economics, essay, music, science, speech and overall.

He did not win math, but he could add up his six gold medals.

“The school has had teams doing this for years and we’ve had some great success,” Cooper said.

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

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