Canyon del Oro High School's Academic Decathlon team members were on a train to catch a flight home when they found out they were national champs.
They missed out on the applause at Saturday's awards ceremony in Minneapolis because it lasted longer than expected and they had to leave before it ended to catch the train.
Instead the team celebrated in transit.
"We were all screaming and hugging," said junior Rebecca Gosla, 16. "We were all very happy."
The CDO team placed eighth overall at the 32nd Annual USAD Nationals Competition, ahead of all schools in its Division II size group - schools with fewer than 2,200 students.
The Oro Valley school, at 25 W. Calle Concordia, is in the Amphitheater Public Schools district and has 1,582 students.
The team defeated 15 competitors in Division II. The students competed in art, economics, essay, interview, language and literature, math, music, science, social studies and speech competitions.
Math teacher Chris Yetman, 48, coached the nine-student team.
Academic Decathlon teams are made up of students whose grade-point averages hover around the A, B and C ranges. Each team includes three students in each category.
Yetman's teams finished fifth overall in 2006, fourth in 2009 and fifth in 2011. CDO had not been eligible for Division II because its enrollment was not low enough to qualify.
The national title was bittersweet because the team could have finished higher, Yetman said.
Still, he said, he is happy that the team won a national title.
"It is good and bad, finishing eighth overall," Yetman said. "The team did underperform a little bit. But they had to work hard to get where they were."
Yetman said the team showed consistent work ethic.
"We won what we did because we worked hard throughout the year," Yetman said.
The team spent about $6,000 on the trip, which came from fundraising and tax credit donations.
"There's a tradition of strong academic decathlon history," Yetman said. "Students hear about it and want to be a part of it. They enjoy proving themselves."
Maria Elena Pakulis, 17, a junior, said the championship was the end of "an amazing year." She and other teammates spent hours studying, often on the weekends and at the expense of social opportunities.
"It kind of validates the program - what we've ben doing all year," Pakulis said. "People ask: 'Are you guys a good team? How do you do?' We don't want to be like, 'We're so great.' Being awarded something official at a national competition validates us, so we don't need to brag."
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Seniors on CDO's team included: Rose Booth, 18; Powell Brumm, 17; Annaliese Grant, 17; Alexander Molina, 17; Jake Rockland, 18; Jakub Safar, 17; and Jason Trainor, 18. Juniors were Rebecca Gosla, 16; and Maria Elena Pakulis, 17.
Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or firstname.lastname@example.org