State Champs Take Home Books, Bring Home Bucks

For the Palestine Westwood Academic Decathlon team, they've gone where no other team has gone before, and brought home a state championship.

"We were so excited," senior Emilee Ladd says. "We had standing ovations, everyone was clapping and cheering. We know we put so much hard work into this, we were very happy to be the first ones ever at Westwood to ever do it."

The first-ever Westwood championship team has received medals, awards, and proclamations. More importantly, they brought home scholarship money. Twenty-three thousand dollars this year, to be exact.

With their scholarships and their studies, these dedicated students are getting ready for the next level.

"I know that I'm going to do better in college," Ladd says, "because I'm going to have a leg up with all the things that we're studying."

"It's all college material," explains Westwood junior Angela Adair. "All the things you learn are going to be useful to you when you get to college, and you'll probably know more than all the other incoming freshmen."

Friday, the team was already back at work for next year to defend their title. This is not only the first ever academic decathlon state championship for Palestine Westwood, it's only the second time a school in this region has ever brought home the gold.

The bar is now officially raised.

"We've got so much support here," Adair says. "It's not really pressure, it's more like everybody's encouraging us and they all really want us to do well."

For the community, this championship team shows how much their schools are valued. Superintendent Marvin Thompson, who helped start the program years ago, says this team shows how important education can be.

"With so much education-bashing going on in the state," he says, "Hopefully it's kind of a beacon that says somebody somewhere is doing something right and really cares."

Reid Kerr ( reporting.