LINCOLN (PX/SNR) — The academic decathlon team of Pius X High School in Lincoln emerged as one of the top five teams in the country at the National Academic Decathlon Competition held in Honolulu, April 24-26.
The team placed in the medium (sized) school division, and brought a total of 11 medals home to Lincoln after an exhilarating trip that included an opportunity to compete at the highest level, while also exploring the sights and cultural aspects of Hawaii.
The Pius X academic decathlon team members were crowned state champions at the 2014 Academic Decathlon State Tournament held at the University of Nebraska-Omaha Feb. 22, earning the berth at nationals. The victory marked the first time in school history that Pius X has won first place at the state tournament, remarkably, after only four years of competition. Pius X decathletes – who were runners-up at the state tournament in 2013 – bested last year’s state champions Creighton Prep in the state large school category, earning the “Thunderbolts” team a trip to nationals.
Academic decathlon is a 10-event scholastic competition for teams of high school students across the nation. Each high school enters a team of nine students: three “A” or ‘Honor’ students, three “B” or ‘Scholastic’ students, and three “C or below” or ‘Varsity’ students. The theme for the 2013–2014 academic decathlon season was World War I.
This year’s team members are seniors: Robert Bryant, Claire Henrichsen, Stephen Kotopka, Nathan Kramer, Abigail Miller, and Matthew Sievert; juniors: Cory Liesch, and Philip Hanigan; and sophomore Henry Jaros. Alternates are: senior Daniel Beals; junior Lucy Kohmetscher, and sophomore Catherine Krueger. The coaches are Margaret Kaiser-Woodward, Mary Jo Kopf, and Ann Kotopka. Father Steven Mills and parent chaperones Mike Kotopka, Michelle Liesch and Curt Krueger accompanied the team to nationals.
“This year’s team represents a group of Pius kids who studied over the span of 10 months to achieve something very special,” Coach Kotopka reflected. “Participation in the national competition and the successes achieved were a rewarding way to end our season. We are humbled to have the opportunity to represent Pius X and the state of Nebraska, and grateful to all that made the trip possible.”
Individual medalists in the honor level were: Philip Hanigan, top team scorer, gold medals in art and science, and bronze medals in music and economics; and Stephen Kotopka, silver medal in art.
Individual medalists in the scholastic level were: Nathan Kramer, gold medals in essay and art; bronze medals in music and social science; Abigail Miller, bronze medal in art.
Individual medalists in the varsity level were: Matthew Sievert, gold medal in social science. Claire Henrichsen received the ‘Most Valuable Player’ vote by her team and a $250 scholarship. Each of the coaches and team members received a participation medal.
“Many of the goals of academic decathlon were transparent during our open time in Honolulu,” Kaiser-Woodward noted. “We experienced a challenging multidisciplinary learning environment.” For example, she said, science and nature were on display as students went on a hike at Diamond Head, and snorkeled at the Hanauma Bay National Wildlife Reserve. Students immersed themselves in music and the arts a traditional luau that consisted of different music and dance from the Polynesian islands of Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa, and Micronesia. A four-hour tour of Pearl Harbor offered a close-up history lesson on one of the most important historical events that changed the world.
“The effort put forth by our students has been amazing, and it is gratifying to see them succeed,” Kaiser-Woodward reflected. “The bonds they developed and the pride they took in each other’s success was wonderful to see and experience.”
This unity was strengthened further during daily Mass celebrated by Father Mills during their trip.
“Celebrating the Mass gave us the opportunity to come together and reflect on the different gifts and graces our Lord has given each of us,” Kaiser-Woodward explained. “The memories created by this journey far outweigh any medals won and will be cherished for a lifetime.”