Academic Decathlon places fifth in state


Julia Waldow, print editor-in-chief

Staff writer Zoe Kenealy contributed to this report.

The Academic Decathlon team won fifth place and received the highest history score in the nation at the state competition held in Sacramento, Calif., from March 15-17. More than 60 teams throughout the state participated in the event, in which students were tested in subjects including math, science, art and literature. Beverly’s team, which was ranked 14th at the state level last year, currently holds 76 medals from competitions at the county and state levels.

“Competition at the state level is intense. All four of the teams that came in ahead of us were in the top five last year and have been for several years,” the team’s adviser, science teacher Emily Smith, said. “So to push our way into this elite company is not only noteworthy, but amazing.”

In addition to earning their ranking and scoring 49,122 points, members of the team took home 17 individual medals:

  • Senior Victor Lee won five gold medals and one bronze medal.

  • Senior Jenny Chieu won three gold medals and one bronze medal.

  • Senior David Mnitsa won two gold medals and one silver medal.

  • Senior Heidi Hart won one gold medal and one bronze medal.

  • Senior Adina Babaian won one bronze medal.

  • Senior Hal Smith won one silver medal.

In addition to his six medals, Lee earned a scholarship and a calculator for having the highest combined math and science score in California. Lee was the highest scoring varsity member of any team and was awarded the Coaches’ Prize for varsity.

“I was very proud to be one of the pioneers, as this is my last year as a decathlete,” Lee said. “But I was very happy to see that the decathlon program at our school was able to be one of the top five.”

Lee credits the team’s success at the state level to the a new training schedule and members’ strong determination.

“We’ve been studying since summer to do the best we can for this competition,” Lee said. “Last year, we weren’t satisfied with the results we had. We knew that we could do better. We were hungry for more. Six members from last year competed this year, and we wanted to make our last year the best we can. That’s partly what’s contributed to our focus.”

Hal Smith, who says that the team sometimes stays at school until 8 p.m. to practice, believes that studying for competitions is different than studying for school assessments.

“It’s not so laborious as studying for a normal class because you’re choosing to do it because you want to learn the information,” he said. “It’s actually sort of enjoyable when you aren’t being forced to do [it].”

The team hopes to prepare for next year’s competition by searching for new recruits and “spreading the word of AcaDeca,” according to Chieu.

“We’re really looking forward to creating an amazing Academic Decathlon program, because it truly is something that changes people’s lives for the better (mine included),” Chieu said.

State champions Granada Hills Charter and El Camino Real will compete in the national Academic Decathlon competition later this spring.

Anyone interested in joining the Academic Decathlon team can contact members at [email protected].