Dedicated to Decathlon

Carl Robinette

Thu February 26, 2015 6:30pm

Sweetwater Union High School District has dominated San Diego County’s Academic Decathlon championships so often in recent years that many districts in the county have lost interest in competing, according to Olympian High’s five-time defending champion team coach Ken Boulton.
Every team that has won the county competition since 2000 has been part of the district and Olympian is defending its title this season.
But Boulton wants to see the decathlon grow. San Diego is the second most populous county in California and only has 11 decathlon teams. Los Angeles, the largest county, has 90 teams.
“It helps the students become more well- rounded, and overall they’re certainly more prepared for college after they’ve been in an academic decathlon,” said Boulton, who is currently coaching his 14th season. “No competition is perfect. I could always make claims about what I don’t like or what can be better. But I believe in it. Overall I think its challenging and it definitely helps the kids mature and grow, and that’s why I’ve stuck with it for so long.”
Before Olympian, Boulton was a teacher and coach at Southwest High School, which also holds five consecutive county championships, thanks to Boulton. He will attempt to break that record this year.
But Boulton was not always so enthusiastic about coaching competitive academics. He did not compete on his high school team, and only accepted the role at Southwest on a temporary basis.
“The original conversation was an interim kind of thing. I said OK, I’ll do it for a year. One year turned into two and then eventually into seven,” said Boulton.
When Boulton’s father died in 2002 he allowed his focus to drift away from the team.
“Quite frankly, I didn’t do the best job of coaching that I could,” said Boulton. “I felt like I kind of let the kids down that year. So I said I’d throw everything into next year, give it the very best that I can. We ended up getting first place and I never looked back.”
Despite having 10 county championships under his belt, Boulton does not think about his own legacy or team dynasties. For Boulton, winning is about the students.
“My mind is always focused on the current team,” he said. “I’ll let someone else focus on that. My goal is to take each team member and make them better, make them more competitive and drive them to do their very best.”
The events consist of multiple choice tests, speeches, essays and interviews. Instructing, training and coaching students through competition is a year-round job to reach the level of success Boulton has seen.
In any given month he is either recruiting, training or competing.
“Right now as we’re talking I’m thinking about the Olympian team next year,” Boulton said. You can never really get a jump on the next year.”
At this point participation from other districts in the county decathlon championship is non existent, Boulton said, but with a little more awareness about the event there is no reason it cannot become a major crowd draw.
“It will never generate the revenue of football or basketball. But there is a place for it to become a lot more popular,” said Boulton.