RED OAK – The Destination ImagiNation team from Red Oak Junior High School received a heroes’ welcome Wednesday during a special pep rally in its honor.

The team of seven eighth-grade students brought home the world championship trophy from the international meet. The global competition, involving 11,250 teams from 40 countries, was in progress all year with the climactic event held at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, last week.

Dr. Brenda Flowers, assistant superintendent and director of curriculum and instruction, hailed the championship team during the pep rally.

“They worked hard,” she said. “They stayed focused and proved to everybody that they were truly champions.”

Red Oak Junior High School principal Kathy Teer offered her congratulations to the team.

“We know you worked very hard on your project,” she said. “Thank you for making us proud.”

Team members are veterans in the event, with each logging several years of competition. Brandt Taylor is a seven-year competitor; Adriana Guardiola, six-year; Linda Lopez, six-year; Taylor Anderson, seven-year; Zach Jackson, five-year; Matthew Colby, five-year; and Allie Fleming, six-year.

Jackson described the skit the Red Oak team performed that landed them in the winner’s circle.

“We did a skit in which we turned a piece of literature into a music video,” he said. “We titled it ‘Lithits.’ We also turned the story, ‘The Little Old Lady that Swallowed the Fly’ into a music video.

“Each person portrayed a different animal and we were all ‘swallowed’ by a life-sized face,” he said.

The team constructed a giant face out of wood and fabric with a fully operational mouth and eyes operated from a pulley system that members devised utilizing fishing line.

“We also built a giant storybook with each page dedicated to each animal that we portrayed,” he said.

Lopez admitted that the team was surprised at winning the championship

“We really worked hard ever since the beginning of the year,” she said. “It was just unbelievable – in past years we didn’t do so good, but we’ve grown a little older and we’ve learned from our mistakes.”

Anderson said they always make predictions as to how well they will do in competition.

“We predicted that we’d be 23rd in the global competition – and ended up winning first place,” she said. “In state competition we predicted that we’d win third place and took first place there, too.”

The team members represent a cross section of extra-curricular activities in school, participating and excelling in volleyball, football, basketball, track, choir, drum corps, drill team, theater and advanced theater.

Guardiola said the team had an experience that helped to bolster members’ confidence prior to the competition.

“We were taking some of our props back to our trailer,” she said. “A few of the other team members came by, looked at us and said, ‘That’s the team to beat.’ ”

As part of the competition, the team had two minutes to plan a strategy and four minutes to perform a certain activity, one of which was to retrieve keys from a hard-to-get place.

Parents accompanied the team and Davidson also had his grandmother in tow for the competition.

“Once they were in the competition, we couldn’t help them in any way or give any ideas,” Janice Davidson said. “They were completely on their own. This was hard on me because I had to keep my mouth shut.”

According to its Web site, Destination ImagiNation is a creative program that helps young people develop skills in creative and critical thinking, teamwork, time management and problem-solving.

For more information, visit the Web site at www.idodi.org.

E-mail Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com