Diocesan News

Lourdes Academic Decathlon Team Wins Fifth Consecutive State Championship

NEBRASKA CITY (SNR) - Lourdes Central in Nebraska City is celebrating the school’s performance at the Feb. 18 Nebraska State Academic Decathlon (NEAD) competition. The team won the Super Quiz and the State Championship in the small school division (Class C and D schools) for the fifth year in a row.

Based on the model of the athletic decathlon, the academic decathlon requires participants to prepare for 10 academic events, encouraging academic versatility. Students are tested in the categories of art, economics, essay, interview, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, social science, and speech. The focus and study materials change every year, with this year’s theme centered around Imperialism: The Age of Empire.

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. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded for individual events and total team scores.

The team from Lourdes has qualified every year to compete at the state level since its inception at the school 17 years ago, and for the past 10 years has been the state champion eight times and runner-up twice. In addition to medals and trophies, students also earn scholarship money if the team places in the top three at regionals and again at state. Over the years students from Lourdes have been awarded more than $60,000 for their efforts.

"Our school gives these kids a great educational foundation," said coach Diana Harris. "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," said Mrs. Liesemeyer. "We try to find a balance between encouraging and pushing to get them to do their best."

Ms. Reuland pointed out that many community members and other faculty have come in to help students prepare for and practice speeches, interviewing skills, and essay writing.

After a long season, started by reading the novel over the summer, the team has not yet finished. The students will continue to study in preparation for an on-line national competition which will take place in late April. According to senior Dane Carlson, "Although the extra studying can be a pain, the sense of accomplishment makes it all worthwhile."

In a record-breaking moment, the students from Lourdes earned every medal for having the top three total scores for small schools at the Varsity, Scholastic, and Honor levels.

Besides being named as the top scorer in the state for the Small School Division, Colby McGinley also received an additional gold medal for being the top scorer in the state overall for the second year in a row, including large schools, a feat that has never been accomplished by any individual in the history of Nebraska Academic Decathlon.

Over all classes, the Lourdes team had the second-highest score in the state, just behind Creighton Prep.

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