Lourdes, Pius X top their divisions
(SNR) – Two diocesan schools won the championships in their divisions of the Nebraska Academic Decathlon state finals in Omaha Feb. 19-20.
Lourdes Central High School in Nebraska City placed first in the “Very Small Schools Division,” and Pius X High School in Lincoln placed first in the “Large School Division,” which in Nebraska combines both large and medium-sized schools.
An academic decathlon team is made up of students of all grade levels who spend the school year learning fundamentals in 10 subject areas. The students are also divided into academic levels based on GPA.
Each high school enters a team of nine students: three A or ‘Honor’ students (3.75 to 4.0 GPA), three B or ‘Scholastic’ students (3.0 to 3.749 GPA) and three C or below ‘Varsity’ students (0.00 to 2.999 GPA).
The competitors also are required to learn specifics about each category, plus social sciences, related to a central theme – this year, the theme was “India.”
At the state finals, the students take exams on each subject and their scores are compared with students from around the state at their corresponding academic level. Students are also graded on essays, prepared and impromptu speeches, and interviews. The culminating event is a super quiz bowl competition.
The Lourdes team earned 17 individual medals at the state contest and tallied enough points to win of the “Very Small Schools Division.” They were also the second-highest scoring school for all small schools in the state, coming behind the team from Elkhorn Mount Michael.
This is the 21st year that Lourdes Central High School has competed in academic decathlon – and the school’s 11th state title. Guidance counselor Lisa Whitten said the decathlon is an important tradition at the school.
“It inspires our students to reach their potential… by pushing them in ways they never thought possible,” Whitten said. “It takes learning to the next level by having the student do more than just memorizing information but understanding and applying this knowledge at competition and beyond.”
Jack Bakula, a junior at Lourdes Central, competes on the Varsity level. Bakula said he is on the team because he thinks it is fun and interesting.
“I do decathlon to keep myself well-rounded with my schooling and athletics,” Bakula said. “Plus, I gain knowledge that not too many people get to have or will learn in their lifetime and I’m only a high-schooler.”
The win for Pius – their third straight state title, in only six years of participation in the academic decathlon – earned Pius X an expense-paid trip to compete at the National Academic Decathlon in Anchorage, Alaska, April 28-30.
Senior Liam Kruse led the Thunderbolts as the highest scoring student in the entire competition, as he broke the record for the highest-ever individual score earned at a Nebraska State Academic Decathlon. Kruse, along with teammates Lisa Vu and Catherine Krueger also earned perfect scores in the math competition. In all, the nine team members earned the gold medal in the Super Quiz competition and 37 individual medals. Each of the nine members of the first-place team also will receive a college scholarship.
Junior Marissa Galardi was the top scorer for the Lourdes Academic Decathlon team. This was her second year as a decathlete.
“There is no other experience that motivates and rewards the way decathlon does,” said Galardi. “I’ve learned how to really study and implement the facts and ideas I learn about in decathlon in my everyday life.”
Galardi said that while she enjoys the connections she has made with her teammates and other Decathletes from around the state, her biggest gain is a love of learning.
“This has really taught me there is a world out there waiting for me and I can never stop learning,” she said.