CDO crowned Academic Decathlon state champs for the 4th year in a row

CDO crowned Academic Decathlon state champs for the 4th year in a row
CDO Academic Decathlon team. (Source: Amphitheater School District)
CDO Academic Decathlon team. (Source: Amphitheater School District)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Canyon del Oro High School Academic Decathlon Team earned the top score at the Arizona Academic Decathlon competition for the fourth-straight year, besting more than 40 teams in the State Finals held March 11-12 at Arizona State University's West Campus in Glendale, Ariz. CDO's victory earns them the right to represent Arizona in the Academic Decathlon National Finals in Madison, Wis. on April 20-22.

In the Academic Decathlon, students match their intellects with students from other schools. They compete in ten categories, including written tests in Art, Economics, Literature, Math, Music, Science, and Social Science. They also write an essay on a curriculum-related topic, deliver both a prepared and impromptu speech, and are interviewed by a panel of judges. This year's theme was World War II, and the students studied the history of the conflict, and also the artistic, literary, and musical responses to the war, as well as the science of atomic and nuclear physics. During the course of a competition, students will answer more than 350 questions on these topics.

Each team has nine students: three "A" or Honor students, three "B" or Scholastic students, and three "C" or Varsity students. CDO's A students were Piper Gray (grade 11), Chloe Penna (grade 10), and Jessica Sheldon (grade 10). The scholastic team included Brady Lybarger (grade 12), Evan Cuillier (grade 12), and Allienna Nezelek (grade 10). The Varsity students were Albert Windes (grade 11), Patrick Carswell (grade 12), and Paige Dingman (grade 12).

Piper Gray led the team with a score of 8,971 points out of a possible 10,000, which was the second highest total of all students in the state of Arizona. Brady Lybarger earned 8,619 points, which earned him the top overall score in the Scholastic category by more than 1,000 points. Seven of the nine students on the CDO team earned at least one individual medal in their respective events, and the team as a whole earned 27 medals, the most of any team at the competition. In addition to medals, all team members earned scholarships, ranging from $500  to $1,200.

The CDO team scored 46,433.9 out of a possible 60,000 points. They handily beat second place Chandler Hamilton High School (44,824 points) and third place Westwood High School (42,177 points). This is the fourth consecutive state championship for CDO, and seventh state title overall. The team also won top honors in 2006, 2009, and 2011, and were state runners up in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2012. In 2016, the team finished 9th at the National Finals and they finished among the Top 5 in the nation in 2015 (5th place).

"The students on the team have invested hundreds of hours of study and practice to earn this victory," said coach Chris Yetman, a math teacher at Canyon del Oro High School. "Their hard work paid off in a big way. However, their real victory will come throughout the rest of their lives, when the skills they learn  will benefit them in college and beyond. The Academic Decathlon teaches the students not only college-level historical, sociological, and scientific information, but also study and time-management skills, as well as writing and public speaking skills. I am very proud of this hard-working, articulate group of scholars."

The team is now focusing on preparing for the national competition and raising money for the trip to Madison, Wis. Yetman estimates that they will need to raise more than $15,000 to fund the trip. Donations are welcome.

For more information about the CDO Academic Decathlon team, please contact Chris Yetman at

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