Nine Perry High School students took part in the Academic Decathlon Regional Competition held Jan. 28-29 at Central Academy and Drake University in Des Moines, and they all brought home medals or ribbons for their efforts.
The regional competition in the Academic Decathlon has three divisions, with three awards given in each division, much like finishers in a track and field event. The divisions are named Honors, Scholastic and Varsity and are distinguished by the competitors’ grade point averages (GPA). Students qualify for the Honors division with a GPA of 3.5 or higher, the Scholastic division with a GPA of 3.0 to 3.4 and the Varsity division with a GPA up to 3.0.
Competing schools are grouped in two classes based on enrollment: the Large School class and the Small School class.
PHS students competed against four other schools in the Small School class, capturing third place overall.
“When there are only five schools competing at the small-school level, achieving third place may not seem that big of a deal,” said Theresa Kresse, coach of the PHS Academic Decathlon team. “Yet to my knowledge there wasn’t another small school that had every competing participant bring home a ribbon or medal, and Perry High School did!”
Kresse, who also teaches French at PHS and is the Success 101 educator, said she was pleased by the poise shown by her young scholars.
“First,” she said, “I am most impressed by the fact that three years ago some of our students were less prepared and much more nervous on our speech and interview competition. However, this year our team appeared to have greater confidence and just did their best with very little speech preparation time.”
PHS senior Cole Whitney took first place in the Scholastic division overall, finishing first in the nine subject areas. He said he plans to study physics in college.
Whitney’s mother, Jeanette Fitch Loyd, was very proud of her son’s achievement.
“Perry won first place this year in the Quiz Bowl,” Loyd said, “and Cole came in first in Scholastic overall, bringing home a gold medal. I’d say that’s pretty good for a day’s work!”
PHS students excelled in all the subject sections. In the economics section of the Scholastic division, Whitney finished first, with junior Jairo Murillo finishing second and junior Kyla Devilbiss making it a sweep of the Scholastic division for PHS.
Senior Lorena Andrade took home a second-place ribbon in economics in the Varsity division.
In the language and literature section, Senior Elizabeth Sanchez placed third in the Honors division. Devilbiss took third in the Scholastic division, and sophomore Abbilyn Fuller placed second in the Varsity division.
In mathematics, Whitney captured first place in the Scholastic division. In the Varsity division, senior Roselin Gonzalez placed first, and Andrade took third.
Whitney and Murillo tied for first place in the Scholastic division’s music section. Andrade placed first in music in the Varsity division.
Whitney and Murillo tied again in the science section of the Scholastic division, with Andrade capturing third place in the Varsity division.
Devilbiss and Whitney tied for first in the art section of the Scholastic division. In the Varsity division for art, Gonzalez took second place.
The social science section saw Sanchez and junior Alicia Calderon tie for second place in the Honors division. Whitney and Murillo tied for third in the Scholastic division. Fuller and Gonzalez tied for first in the Varsity division, with Andrade taking second.
Senior Carigan Studer competed as an alternate and placed third among all alternates in the social science, economics, music, and language and literature sections.
Kresse said training for the Academic Decathlon begins in late September or early October with twice-weekly meetings. This year’s theme was India. Students read Kamala Markandaya’s novel, “Nectar in a Sieve,” and integrated it with information from the content areas of science, social science, economics, mathematics, music or art.
Meetings included group reading and study, Kahoot.com quiz-review challenges, Quizlet.com games, board races and other interesting and challenging activities, Kresse said.
“My goal is to enhance students’ learning while making it enjoyable,” she said.
Meeting twice a week can be challenging for students who are engaged in their regular class work and also involved in many other activities. Kresse said students received a schedule for the entire semester so they knew the dates well in advance and could inform their employers, family and others.
“Most of the students on our team had difficulty attending the meetings due to their busy schedules,” Kresse said. “However, Abbilyn Fuller, a sophomore, should be recognized for attending every meeting except for three. Her dedication to learning about India was phenomenal for her first year on team.”