Cazenovia High School’s Academic Decathlon team will be representing the district at the State Competition on March 11 and 12 at Onondaga Community College. Having just placed second in the regional competition on Feb.5 at Westhill High School, the team is busy studying and preparing to compete against seven other teams from around New York at the state championships.
“This has been a successful program since its start in the late 1980s,” Coach Susan McKillop said. “I hope the kids do their best at this next competition and stick to our strategy. It is a lot of hard work, and they’ve put in a lot of effort. They deserve the credit, regardless of the outcome at states.”
McKillop has been coaching the AD team since she came to the district in 1996. For the past six years, the “decathletes” have been consecutively crowned both regional and state champions. Led by McKillop and Martin Kelly, Cazenovia’s Academic Decathlon team has earned quite a reputation amongst their intellectual opponents.
At competitions, participating schools send nine members. There are three different divisions – Honors, Scholastic and Varsity – which are designated by students’ grade point averages. Three students comprise each division. The honors division includes students with “A” averages, while the scholastic division is for the “B” students and “C” students make up the varsity team.
The theme of this year’s state competition is the Great Depression; however students will take seven written exams which can be any of ten academic subjects, a math test, and a “Super Quiz” which will focus on geology. In addition, competitors will have to deliver a 4 minute speech, an impromptu speech, complete an interview and an essay.
Cazenovia’s team is comprised of returning champions and first time contenders, ranging in ages and grade point averages. There are ample competitors in the honors and scholastic divisions, as some students are listed as “alternates” on the roster. However, the team is in need of another varsity member. The team only has two competing varsity students, and will enter the state competition with a squad of only eight-members.
This year, the Academic Decathlon consists of Alexandra Cameron, Hannah Gravelding, Robert Louis, Avery Stonefish, Maxwell Blair, David Martellock, Kyle Polhamus, Sam Medbury, Cullen Singleton and Darren Milhaich.
Some of the decathletes explained that even though some people don’t understand the allure of the competition, it can be incredibly rewarding to those who participate.
“It’s a lot more fun that you would think,” Martellock said. “I enjoy it immensely more than taking a subject test in school, even though it is taking seven 30-minute tests, back-to-back.”
As the Academic Decathlon team begins to study for their upcoming examinations at the state competition, they collectively focus on certain subjects more than others. A close-knit group of friends, formed on intellectual ability, they all encourage each other to work on areas they’ve had trouble with. Student’s individual scores are combined and then compared against other team’s composite scores. The team with the highest average at states will move onward to the National Competition, which will take place April 27 to 30, in Charlotte, North Carolina.