Berkmar wins academic decathlon

LAWRENCEVILLE - Berkmar High School snagged the state academic decathlon championship trophy again for the fourth consecutive year Saturday and will represent Georgia at the national academic decathlon in April.

For Berkmar High School senior Richard Dempsey, the months of preparation and extra hours of studying topics such as European Renaissance art history and economics were worth it.

"This was my first year, but it was a whole lot of fun," said Dempsey of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators sponsored event.

Although involved in the marching band and varsity baseball, Dempsey still made time to study for the decathlon in addition to his normal course load.

"It's just a balance," he said. "You study when you have a free moment. For me there's no more TV or video games, but it's more rewarding to learn."

More than 230 students representing 27 schools in the state apparently felt the same way as they crammed into the Berkmar High School auditorium Saturday for the culminating event of the decathlon: the super quiz oral relay.

A crowd favorite, the room erupted with cheers after each team completed a round of questions based on this year's theme: the European Renaissance.

Berkmar High School won first runner-up in this event, second only to Catoosa County's Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School.

Berkmar's academic coach I.V. Bray has been at the helm for all four of the school's wins and the seven years it took to get there.

"It was basically learning what it takes to win," he said. "We've gotten on a good trend. We work hard and get kids that are interested in working hard."

Meeting weekly for hours at a time after school the physics teacher and golf coach, Bray, drills the kids on math, speech writing and interviewing techniques - all components of the decathlon.

Berkmar High School students are not the only Gwinnettians with a taste for academic competition, however. This year two coaches and seven students from Mill Creek High School scored high enough in preliminary testing to represent the county in this weekend's competition.

"I think it's a lot to go up against Berkmar but I think students did very well," said academic coach Lee Hayes about her Mill Creek team, which won a gold medal in the speech competition.

The Berkmar team will represent Georgia in April at the U.S. Academic Decathlon National Finals in San Antonio, Texas.