KINGMAN - From Russia with love to Phoenix for state.
The Kingman Academy of Learning High School's academic decathlon team took home first-place honors at the recent regional competition, which included teams from small schools throughout the state as well as schools from Arizona's northern region. The feat was good enough to earn the nine-student team a ninth-place ranking entering the state competition in Phoenix March 8-9.
The topic: Russia.
"In years past, (individual) students carried the team," said Michael Suchowierski, the school's social studies teacher.
But that wasn't the case this year, he said. This year's success is directly connected to how well the students came together as a team.
Academic decathlon teams must be comprised of three sections - honors, scholastic and varsity - containing three students apiece. The honors section is made up of A students, the scholastic section includes B students and the varsity section includes C students, but all three sections compete in the same events.
"You're only as strong as your scholastic and varsity," Suchowierski said.
As students graduate and others improve their grades, the team must fill its vacant positions. There were four additions to the team this year, Suchowierski said.
The topic was revealed in March 2012, and students began studying it at the beginning of the school year.
"There was a lot more interest in the topic this year," said KAOL junior David Vega, who's in his second year on the team. "It is much less general than last year."
Last year's topic focused on several centuries of imperialism and was called "The Age of Empire." This year focused on Russian everything, from literature to the space race, and all the topics in between.
Vega brought home multiple individual awards this year, including a second-place finish in overall varsity.
Senior Allison Lambert brought home a bundle of awards, including best overall interview. As part of the competition, a panel of judges often ask questions completely unrelated to the main topic during interviews.
Lambert said she found success in this section because she turned the interview into a conversation and had the judges laughing.
Despite the individual success that most students on the team experienced at the competition, Lambert said the most important aspect was their teamwork.
"We were a group of nine," she said. "We didn't need a leader because we were all equally involved, which made it a lot easier to have fun."
The team worked together, studied together and succeeded together, she said. They made songs and told jokes to remember confusing facts and pulled all-nighters to make sure they were prepared.
"We want to win and we have the drive," Lambert said. "You have to not just want to improve yourself, but also make the team better."
With the onus placed on teamwork and accountability comes a higher level of performance and team-based encouragement.
"The mixture of it all is a formula for success," Vega said.