Academic Decathlon team brings home 11 medals, takes seventh at state championship

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STAFF WRITER Allison Ocelus

MHS’s Academic Decathlon Team earned seventh place in the Academic Decathlon State Championship on March 6. The curricular theme this year was “The Cold War,” meaning that all of the subjects were focused around this era of history. 

In science, for instance, the team studied astronomy as it related to the Space Race in the Cold War. And competitors were introduced to musical works from the Cold War era to engage the music curriculum. 

The MHS team took home 11 medals, besting any of their totals from the past four years.

Sung Cho, Angela Lian and Irene Biju each won two medals in the Honors Division, which is composed of students earning nearly all As over their past two years.

Cho earned the bronze medal in music and gold for his essay. His writing piece, regarding Cold War-era music, earned a perfect score. 

Cho discussed why he thinks the team had so much success this year.

We spent a lot of time during club meetings going over the material. I also think we individually put in a lot of effort to make sure we had a strong grasp of what we were going to be tested on.” 

Cho also gave some insight into what he enjoys most about Academic Decathlon. 

“Learning about things that I would’ve never gotten the chance to learn about in my school classes is something that I enjoy about AcDec. The competitions can be tiring, but I’m always really interested in the new material we learn about each year.”

Lian won gold in math and economics.

Biju earned the bronze in art and economics. 

Biju weighed in on what she thinks is the most important thing about being a part of the Academic Decathlon Team.

I like that I am able to learn about topics that I would never learn about in normal core classes. For example, I have never taken an art class during high school. But through Academic Decathlon, I am able to dive a little deeper into the art world and broaden my experiences.”

MHS Varsity competitors fared well at the championship as well. Kylie Trankle won three medals, and Seth Huff won two. 

Trankle’s performance earned her three bronzes in the art and economics events, and for her essay. 

Huff managed to win two golds: one in economics and the other in science. 

The Warriors also featured three Scholastic Division competitors: Emma McGrath, Ethan O’Brien and Devesh Posa. 

The decathlon’s previous competitive themes have included “In Sickness and in Health: An Exploration of Illness and Wellness,” “America in the 1960s,” and “Africa.” Next year’s theme has been announced to be “Water: A Most Essential Resource.”

Mr. Outland, the Academic Decathlon sponsor, shared his thoughts on the Academic Decathlon Team and their accomplishments this year. 

“The success that they had this year is the result of a lot of work and dedication by the members of the team.  There is a tremendous amount of reading that must be done to adequately prepare for Academic Decathlon.  Seven of the ten events have resource guides that are 80-120 pages long, each. Added to that is the full-length novel that must be read as part of the literature curriculum,” said Mr. Outland. The seven events he spoke of include math, literature, science, history, economics, art and music. 

Mr. Outland discussed the other work commitments successful decathletes must honor if they are to be successful. 

“The other three events–essay, speech and interview–also require a lot of prep time.  On top of all of that, the team meets two days a week after school from September through early March,” said Mr. Outland who added that the group understood that they had to work together.

“They were also successful because they have bought into the team concept and have done a lot to support and help each other as the year progressed. What makes this year even more special is that our score at States was higher than in previous years, even though this was a pandemic year, and we were only able to meet virtually.” 

Mr. Outland indicated why joining the Academic Decathlon can positively impact your future. 

“Participation in Academic Decathlon has several important benefits. First of all, it is regarded by College Transitions, a college admissions counseling service, as one of the top three most prestigious competitions for high school students. Academic Decathlon is about choosing to push one’s limits, to master college-level material and to practice skills like public speaking. It’s also about sharing this incredible experience with others as part of a team, navigating the challenges of teamwork, leadership and time-management.”