Academic Decathlon team excels in Nationals
May 5, 2007
The Park City High School Academic Decathlon team missed one more question than the competition. One question out of 3,000 put them in second place in the small-school division of the National Academic Decathlon finals in Hawaii.
The competition, which ran from April 25-29, was the culmination of a year of intense study of China. Nine PCHS students and three coaches made the trip to the ‘Big Island’ to a competition involving 39 teams. Park City placed second out of 13 schools in the small-school division.
"The competition was brutal," said John Krenkel, PCHS history teacher and head coach of the AD team. He was proud that that his team did so well against a ‘magnet school,’ which he described as a high school composed of the best students from all high schools in the district, in effect making it a large school. But it quickly becomes obvious that a second-place finish, especially by the smallest possible margin, was hard for the team to forget.
"In my 24 years of coaching AD, I’ve never seen it that close," Krenkel said. "I thought we were going to win. It came as a shock." He blamed himself. "As a coach, I made mistakes. I put too much focus on the core subjects and not enough on speech and interview."
Assistant AD coach Danialle Ronnow recalled changing an answer on the multiple choice portion of a test and getting it wrong. She was not alone. Jonathan Draxton said "I missed one on Dengue fever. I had it right, then I changed it."
Team member Nicole Rosecrans said that sometimes changing an answer works, but she said from personal experience, "You hate yourself if you change it and miss it."
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But the trip to Hawaii was not all pressure. Competitors had time to spend on the beach, and see the sights.
The AD team won the state competition in March, qualifying them for nationals. All nine team members thoroughly learn 2,000-3,000 pages of college-level material, preparing for 10 testing subjects including: history, math, language, science, economics, literature, and three special topics of interview, speech and essay.
In the nationals, competitors must answer about 500 questions covering all topics, over a two-day period. Some tests are timed, including the math portion, said competitor Nick Naro.
Krenkel prepares the team in an AD class. Team members also try to stump each other with obscure questions.
Team member Colin Eikenberry said he studied about two hours per day on AD as well as having homework in his other classes.
"This is not trivia," Krenkel said of AD. This requires an incredible depth of knowledge."
Rosecrans added that the AD team members have to be good test takers. "You have to have logical reasoning. Through the process of elimination, you have to rule things out."
Competition is over for this year, but soon team members will receive materials for next year’s topic, the American Civil War.
Krenkel said he is going to have to get in the business of fundraising for next year’s competitions since with district budget cuts, AD travel will not be covered. "For the first time we had to pay for half of this trip ourselves," he said of this year’s nationals. "I don’t feel the students should be fundraising, Krenkel said.
"The studying for AD is brutal." Sponsors including The Park City and Sunrise Rotary Clubs, Lewis, Wolcot and Dornbush Real Estate of Park City, Rory Murphy and The Park Record contributed to the Hawaii trip. Krenkel said next year he hopes to get additional support from the community.
But for now, things are moving toward next year. Eikenberry is about to graduate. He believes that AD will not only have been a tremendous experience, but will also be of great benefit on resumes.
Members of next year’s team are winding down school work. If there is one thing they will likely think of sometime this summer in preparing for next year’s competitions, it will be, DON’T CHANGE YOUR ANSWER.
Members of the 2007 Academic Decathlon team include Colin Eikenberry, Nicole Rosecrans, Patrick O’Malley, Patrick Paterson, Robert Florence, Anna Amici, Nick Naro and Jonathan Draxton and Danialle Ronnow.
Contributions to the AD team: To donate to the Academic Decathlon, call John Krenkel at 649-5650, ext. 2163