Preble has strong showing at national decathlon
By Ben Rodgers
GREEN BAY – Preble High School made its mark at the United States Academic Decathlon April 25-27 in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Preble competed in Division IV and three students took home individual honors.
Schools compete in Divisions I-III, based on school size, said Gordon Kendall, who is the Preble co-coach along with Kristin Kreuser.
Division IV is essentially a wild card division, accepting the best school from each state that is not in the same division as the top team from each state.
Preble was actually ranked eighth in Wisconsin, but the teams above it were in the same division as Wisconsin’s top finisher Wilmot Union High School, near the Wisconsin/Illinois border.
“I’ve had very good teams and I may have even had teams as good as the one this year, but this year we had exceptional depth to this team,” said Kendall, an 18-year academic decathlon coach at Preble.
Rebeccah Peper won silver in Division IV for speech in the Honors category, and Addison Bartikofsky won gold in Division IV for speech in the Varsity category.
Oliver Kindt won the Founder’s Scholarship for most improved Varsity student in Division IV, which earned him a $250 scholarship.
Rounding out the team are Sebastian Guo, Michael Vance, Alex Elsing, Hannah Van Pay, Phillip Balch and Rylee Hajos.
A few students couldn’t make the national tournament due to conflicts like DECA and track and field, which meant Preble wasn’t even at full strength.
“Would I have liked to have gone to national with a full team? Sure,” Kendall said. “But it was cool to see behind the curtain and see what happens there, and see some of these amazing teams like ones from California, Texas and Wilmot.”
Academic Decathlon has team members in different categories based on their GPAs.
Students with a 3.75 to 4 GPA (A) are placed in the Honors category, those with a 3 to 3.74 GPA (B) are in the Scholastic category and students with 0 to 2.99 are placed in the Varsity category.
There are seven multiple-choice exams including: Art, economics, literature, mathematics, music, social science and science.
The Super Quiz event tests students on all subjects listed above.
Students also write an essay and are judged in speech and interview.
The theme for this year’s competition was the 1960s.
The Preble team studied a binder with more than 1,000 pages going over this year’s material, essentially a whole other class load worth of material.
In the thick of regional competition, they would meet twice a week after school to study.
For some students on the team with jobs and other commitments like sports, this would create 14-hour days, Kendall said.
Team members are also expected to study on their own and prepare and practice speeches for the competition, he said.
“I think sports are great,” Kendall said. “The state champion soccer team ought to be recognized, but there is more to it than that. Academic competition gives kids who aren’t specifically athletically gifted a chance to practice some of those skills like hard work, preparation and acting under pressure.”
This year Kendall also said the team underwent a “Breakfast Club effect.”
“We recruit this team looking for kids with good academic skills, good presentation skills, and we don’t necessarily put them on the team because they know each other, so really this year we threw nine kids on the team and they didn’t know each other,” he said. “…They really got to know each other when they normally wouldn’t have.”
Kendall said he was surprised the team made it to nationals and was able to compete with “the big boys.”
“The hardcores like Wilmot Union, we’re not on their level,” he said. “But 8-hour weekend sessions are not unheard for teams like that at nationals.”
At the end of the competition, Wilmot Union, won first place in the nation for Division II.