Anybody with some old T-shirts or bumper stickers knows what "Carpe Diem" means. Those on conversational terms with the full saying -- "Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero" -- are harder to find.
"Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in tomorrow." With a team depleted of seniors, the Roman poet Horace's words captured the challenge facing North Allegheny's Junior Classical League team as it sought its 10th straight title at Penn State University May 25-27.
About 50 North Allegheny students in grades eight through 12 made the trip, said coach and Latin teacher Theresa Klein, but a scheduling conflict with the senior prom ate through the ranks of tourney veterans.
"Great students leave, and you think how can other kids step up to the plate?" Ms. Klein said. "The freshmen probably won it for us. They really stepped up.
"Without them, there wouldn't have been a victory. If there were going to be a year that we were going to lose," she said, "it would've been this year."
Norm Gottron, state and school president of the Junior Classical League, couldn't agree more. The 18-year-old senior from McCandless gave up his senior prom to preside over the weekend events. "It was an awesome feeling when they announced that we had won for our 10th year in a row," he said. "Students from all levels of Latin really came through for us."
Key freshmen were Andrew Adam, 15, of Marshall, and Sean Radermacher, 15, of McCandless. Ms. Klein said both earned multiple awards in academics and the arts.
Approximately 500 students from 13 schools competed in the three-day Junior Classical League championship, which involves more than a dozen events in three categories -- academic, artistic and athletic.
While being a Latin grammar whiz is useful, so is being an accomplished freestyle swimmer, orator, graphics artist or Harry Potter fan.
Even friends and family make the mistake of referring to the North Allegheny group as the Latin club, which suggests but a fraction of what the Junior Classical League is all about.
"No one understands the depth of the competition," Ms. Klein said. "Most people think that's all we do, academics, but it's not."
She referred instead to the competition's motto of "Mens Sana in Corpore Sano," or "A sound mind in a sound body" from the Roman poet, Juvenal. "It rewards the well-rounded student," she said.
The weekend includes a toga walk, during which the competitors stroll in togas from the dormitory down State College streets. There's also a Roman banquet featuring fruits and vegetables, bread and honey cakes, and plenty of figs, eggs and apples.
In gaining the most overall sweepstakes points, North Allegheny fared well in everything from the Olympika track meet to the costume show to the multimedia arts. It scored big with Emi Lou Vukson, 18, a senior from McCandless, who was the artistic co-champion.
Another big winner was the Latin II class team that won the quiz bowl, or Certamen. Ms. Klein said the win sealed the overall victory.
Andy Fishell, 16, a Franklin Park 10th-grader and team captain, called the Certamen surprisingly intense. "Rarely will you find people more excited about Roman gods, history, or even participles."
David Tobias, 16, a 10th-grader from McCandless, seized the day with the winning answer to "What book would the Romans have called 'Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis?' "
"The first team to buzz in missed it because they didn't listen to the entire question," he said. "Once I heard the whole title, I knew I had it": 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.' "
David Guo can be reached at email@example.com or 724-772-0167.