ALBANY — The team representing Westover Comprehensive High School won the Dougherty County School System’s annual District Academic Decathlon on Thursday, a competition of general knowledge and trivia for Dougherty County high school students.

This competition was part of the Georgia Academic Decathlon, a program run by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, or PAGE. More than 30 students competed, with those from the Westover team now advancing to the state level.

The overall individual winners for the competition were Denzel Cunningham from Westover, Chantal Mackey from Westover and Ronnie Amos from Dougherty Comprehensive High School.

The competition “focuses on the importance of developing well-rounded individuals and provides an antidote to intellectual apathy and underachievement,” the PAGE website said.

Each year, the competition has a theme, and students study the art, music, literature, science, economics and other curriculum relating to the theme. This year officials chose the decade of the 1960s.

The district competition consists of seven tests based on the various content areas and then a head-to-head competition at the end. Students are judged on eligibility to compete in the competition based on their transcripts and GPAs.

Leigh Shepherd, the English/Language Arts content coordinator for the district as well as coordinator of the decathlon, said that the competition helps students to see what they are capable of achieving, as well as the value of teamwork.

“It gives them a chance to study and see that achievement,” Shepherd said. “But also to work together as a team because sometimes someone might be better in science and someone else is better in literature, so they get to help each other and cross disciplines to learn that material and challenge each other. I think it’s very good.”

Students that advance on to the state level will also have to compete in additional categories, like speech, essay and interview.

District Testing Coordinator Brian Collier, also a former coach for Westover, said the school system has had a representative team at the state competition every year that the district has been involved. When he coached students at Westover, his team went on to the national competition three times.

Darian Simpkins and Ulbrikia Daniels, first-year coaches from Monroe Comprehensive High School, began working with their students at the beginning of October. They met Mondays and Wednesdays to go over and study the material and prepare the students for the district competition.

“We meet twice a week, and they have to study,” Simpkins said. “It takes a lot of outside work. They have to study at home and listen to the music, review the artwork, stuff like that.”

All of the students involved spend several months preparing for the competition and studying the material they are given. The students are divided up into three different categories: Honors, Scholastic and Varsity, based on their grades, with the Honors group having the highest grades.

The PAGE website also said the competition “provides incentive for average students, underachieving students, above-average students as well as academically talented students, to become interested in intellectual activities.”

“It’s expanding their horizons,” Simpkins said about the competition’s effect on the students.

Students from the Westover team will compete in the state competition Feb. 22-23.

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