West Valley High School

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West Valley High School
West Valley High School logo
School Founded 1975
Team Established c. 1986
History West Valley has the second most Alaska Academic Decathlon state championships. It is also tied for Alaska's best national performance (2007) with a 9th place overall finish.
City Fairbanks, Alaska
Team Colors Red and gold
Principal Sarah Gillam
Head Coach Tracey Howland
Associate/Other Head Coach(es) N/A
National Championships None
State Championships 11: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011, 2013, 2015
Regional/County Championships (?): 2004, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015
Region/County Location Interior Alaska
Highest Finish 9th (2nd in Division II): 2007 Nationals
School Website {{{website}}}

School history and profile[edit]

West Valley High School opened its doors in 1975 to serve students in the western half of the Fairbanks area. Fairbanks is the largest city in interior Alaska with about 70,000 residents. For more information on West Valley, see the article on Wikipedia.

Academic Decathlon[edit]

West Valley's Academic Decathlon program was coached by Joy Grubis from 1998 to 2008, in partnership with her husband Hannibal Grubis after 2004. During this time, West Valley won four state championships in addition to the four it had already posted. The team attended nationals in Chicago, Honolulu, and Garden Grove. During the 2006-07 season it posted record scores of 42,892.2 at the state competition and 43,768.9 at nationals. Team members Mike Grediagin, Will Bishop, John Pender, and Molly Seeley earned national medals. Ming Zhang had the highest score in the state in 2005, as did Will Bishop from 2006 to 2008. Numerous other team members won scholarships by placing in the top 3.

Hannibal and Joy Grubis retired from coaching in 2008 and were replaced by Coby Haas, who coached for the 2009 season. With only one varsity at regionals, and three last-minute recruits at state, West Valley was unable to overcome Lathrop, and took third in the state behind Lathrop and IDEA. John Pender had the top scholastic score.

In 2009, Robin Feinman took over the Academic Decathlon program. With another team largely composed of new recruits, West Valley took third at the state competition again. Stephen Chen posted the highest Honors score in the state in 2010.

In 2011, after losing regionals to Lathrop, West Valley won the state competition and traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina for 2011 Nationals. Team member Paige Gieck received a medal at the 2011 nationals. Stephen Chen once again posted the highest honors score at state and John Spiers the highest varsity score, with Marx Smith and Thomas McClelland also winning scholarships.

In fall 2011, Ms. Feinman was transferred to teach at Lathrop and Mr. Haas resumed coaching the team. West Valley narrowly won the 2012 regionals, but lost to Lathrop at state. Thomas McClelland posted the highest varsity and highest overall score at the state competition, as well as the highest varsity score in team history, and earned medals in all 10 events. William Mitchell and Roberta Spiers also received scholarships.

In 2013, West Valley won the state competition for the 10th time. William Mitchell and Atticus Geiger received the two highest individual scores in the state. These two honors continued to lead the team to success, culminating in 2015 when Geiger, Mitchell, Ray Hogenson, and Robert Hartman received the four highest scores in the state and the team won by a margin of over 3,000 points.

The 2016-2017 season was coached by West Valley's librarian, Cindy Apodaca.

Rivalry with Lathrop[edit]

From 2000 until 2017, West Valley competed intensely with cross-town rival Lathrop High School. The friendly rivalry between the two schools resulted in improved scores, longer seasons, and a wider recognition of Alaskan decathletes at nationals.

West Valley held a lead over Lathrop in total state titles until 2020, but Lathrop has arguably been more consistent: Lathrop placed first or second every year from 2000 to 2014, while West Valley posted several third-place finishes. Alongside that, from 2000(Lathrop's first state win) to 2024, Lathrop has managed to win 16/25 state titles, with West Valley only winning 6/25. West Valley had consistently defeated Lathrop in the Honors division until 2019 whereas Lathrop continues to usually win in the Scholastic and Varsity divisions, at times by wide margins. For example, in 2008, Lathrop won Varsity by 1,593.3 points and West Valley won Honors by 2,796.8 points; the overall margin between the teams was only 708 points.

West Valley and Lathrop traded off wins for many years. From 2004 to 2015, Lathrop won in even years and West Valley in odd years, except in 2008 and 2009 when the two were reversed. Both have active groups of alumni who assist the coaches and sometimes travel to Anchorage to cheer on the teams during the state competition.

Record Board[edit]

Overall Team: 2007 Nationals - 43,768.9

Honors: Will Bishop, 2008 Nationals - 8,991.1

Scholastic: John Pender, 2007 Nationals - 7,616.8

Varsity: Thomas McClelland, 2012 State - 7,130.2

Performance Chart[edit]

Year Regionals Score Regionals Rank State Score State Rank Nationals Score Nationals Rank
2019 32,657 2 35,020.7 3 DNC DNC
2018 30,942 2 34,723.4 4 DNC DNC
2017 22,425.9 4 ? ? DNC DNC
2016 28,468.3 3 35,633.0 3 DNC DNC
2015 37,466.1 1 42,211.2 1 41,934.9 11
2014 34,606 1 37,906.4 2 DNC DNC
2013 32,754.3 2 36,557.2 1 34,998.7 28
2012 34,476.6 1 37,419.8 2 DNC DNC
2011 32,414 2 38,064.1 1 28,761.5 29
2010 2 31,939.0 3 DNC DNC
2009 29,302.1 2 35,117.3 3 DNC DNC
2008 38,903.9 1 39,384.9 1 39,254.4 21
2007 39,594.4 1 42,892.2 1 43,768.9 9
2006 35,204.9 2 37,375.0 2 DNC DNC
2005 37,015.0 2 38,213.3 1 37,944.0 20