At the May 21st Board of Education meeting, ten students from Cazenovia High School presented on their experience representing New York at the United States Academic Decathlon National Competition in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Seniors Riley O’Brien and Ian Melvin won individual medals, while junior Kate Martellock was voted team MVP and received a scholarship for leading the team in scoring.
“It was an eye opening experience for just how strong our schools’ academics are” says team president Ronan DeFanti. “It is an experience that one can never forget”
Academic Decathlon is a scholastic competition consisting of tests in ten subjects: art, music, literature, math, economics, science, social science, essay, speech, and interview. Each test revolves around a common theme. This year’s theme was the 1960s.”
Preparation for Academic Decathlon requires balance. Each team member must participate in every test. Furthermore, teams must include 2-3 students with an “A” average, 2-3 with a “B” average, and 2-3 with a “C” average.
“It’s always frustrating when someone says they’re too dumb to join AD, when really it’s that perception that’s holding them back,” says Martellock, “It’s really about the effort you put in. It’s taught me how to work hard and study, which more often than not kids don’t know how to do for college.”
“Students just have to enjoy learning.” agrees coach Ben Wightman, “This competition isn’t solely about facts; it’s about discovering learning methods that work for each individual. It’s about communicating knowledge to teammates. It’s about creating fun opportunities to engage with the curriculum. We often make up our own review games. With so many different learning styles represented, we need to experiment.”
Between tests, students had opportunities for enrichment at the National Competition. They visited the Mall of America, and mingled with their “twin team” from Nanjing, China.
Meeting the Chinese students was a highlight of the trip for sophomore Alyson Woolbert, who reflects “It was great getting to know our “twin team” because we got to experience a little bit of a different culture without traveling across the world.”
Despite their success, the students are not resting on their laurels. “Overall, we placed 8th in the small schools division” explains Riley O’Brien. “We plan to continue improving our overall team score, fundraise diligently, and, with a little luck, we hope to represent New York at nationals again next year in Anchorage, Alaska.” The students will not have to wait long to get started. Materials for the coming year are expected to begin shipping this week.
Special thanks to Mr. Ben Wightman for authoring this article.