NEBRASKA CITY (SNR) - For the fourth straight year, the academic decathlon team from Nebraska City’s Lourdes Central Catholic High School won the state championship.
In addition, team member Colby McGinley was named the top individual scorer in the state for the Small School Division, and also received an additional gold medal for being the top overall scorer in the state, including large schools. This is the first time in Nebraska’s Academic Decathlon history that a student from the Small School division has earned this award.
The Lourdes students began preparing last summer for the competition, which was held at Creighton University in Omaha. The goal is to learn a topic in multiple educational disciplines, so that the students can demonstrate their academic versatility.
The 10 categories are art, economics, essay, interview, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, social science, and speech.
Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are awarded for individual events and total team scores. Students also earn scholarship money if the team places 1st, 2nd, or 3rd at regionals and again at state.
The team from Lourdes has qualified every year to compete at the state level since the program was started at the school 16 years ago. In the past nine years, Lourdes has been the state champion seven times and runner-up twice. Over the years students from Lourdes have been awarded more than $55,000 in scholarships.
According to the model established when the Academic Decathlon was founded in 1981, each high school enters a team of nine students: three "A" or Honor students, three "B" or Scholastic students, and three "C" or Varsity students who compete against other schools’ team members at the same academic level. Teams may also have an alternate at each level.
This year, the topic was the Great Depression. Students from Lourdes and other participating schools studied numerous books and handouts about this era, spending many additional hours on top of their regular schoolwork.
After the grueling competition, Lourdes Central Catholic was once again named state champion in the small school division (Class C and D schools). Overall, the Lourdes team had the 3rd highest score in the state, just behind Creighton Prep and Omaha Burke
Coach Diana Harris remarked, "Our school gives these kids a great educational foundation. I see our Academic Decathlon program as a way to build on that and expand into many college-level subjects."
Mary Ann Liesemeyer and Molly Reuland also coach the team.
"The three of us play ‘tag team’ in organizing and working with the team members. We try to find a balance between encouraging and pushing to get them to do their best!" stated Mrs. Liesemeyer.
Ms. Reuland is quick to point out that many community members and other faculty have come in to help students prepare for and practice speeches, interviewing skills, and essay writing.
"It really ‘takes a village’ to build a strong team every year," she said.
After a long season, the team has not yet finished. It will continue to study in preparation for an on-line National Competition, which will take place in late April.
According to senior Derrek Christians, "Although the extra studying can be a pain, the sense of accomplishment makes it all worthwhile."
Team members (alphabetically) and their medal winnings: Blake Bequette: 4 Gold, 2 Silver, 4 Bronze; Colin Boyle: 2 Gold, 1 Silver, 1 Bronze; Dane Carlson: 2 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze; Derrek Christians: 5 Gold, 3 Silver, 1 Bronze; Steele Giles: 2 Gold, 5 Silver, 1 Bronze; Taylor Heng: 3 Gold, 1 Silver; James Hoeschen: 3 Gold, 1 Silver; Jeff Lechner: 3 Gold, 1 Silver; Reed Lechner: 1 Gold, 3 Silver, 2 Bronze; Colby McGinley: 7 Gold, 3 Silver; James O’Neil: 3 Gold, 4 Silver, 1 Bronze; David Warga: 6 Gold, 3 Silver.