Centennial school wins local Junior High Academic Decathlon
By Julie Filby
CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEBPAGE
Photo by Julie Filby/DCR
In a day mixed with pressure, fun and friendly competition, 160 students from 13 Catholic schools gathered at St. Mary School in Littleton to participate in the Denver Archdiocese’s second annual Junior High Academic Decathlon.
“Be nice to each other,” Father Alvaro Montero, D.C.J.M., pastor at St. Mary’s, suggested to students in his opening remarks at the March 3 event. “Good luck and try to relax.”
At the end of several hours of grueling individual and team competition, one school—St. Thomas More in Centennial—was selected as overall champion to represent the archdiocese in the championship in California in May.
“The decathlon encourages competition and rigorous academics,” explained Mark Strawbridge, principal of St. Pius X School in Aurora and archdiocesan decathlon coordinator. “I believe it celebrates the uniqueness of Catholic education: strong academics grounded in faith … and provides students an opportunity to showcase the talents given to them from God.”
The 10-event competition for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders consisted of eight individual tests in English, current events, fine arts, literature, math, religion, science and social studies; and two team events: a Logic Quiz of 20 thinking problems, and the renowned Super Quiz.
To begin the afternoon’s Super Quiz—the only portion of competition open to the public—teams of eight to 10 participants sat poised at tables in the silent gymnasium, prepared to respond to 50 multiple-choice questions.
Each question was read aloud, following by 20 seconds of “thinking time” to collaborate on an answer. When the buzzer sounded, a captain at each table raised a card to display the team’s answer.
More than 200 spectators in the bleachers could sense both confidence and tension from the participants. Some students flashed smiles and nods of confidence—while others, at times, displayed concerned looks of uncertainty or let out sighs of frustration.
Ryleigh Akridge, 14, an eighth-grader at St. Mary’s, is familiar with the pressure. She was a member of last year’s winning team that traveled to the championship in California.
“It’s nerve-wracking—everbody’s staring at you,” she said. “And it’s silent on top of that.”
Alejandro Faiffer, 13, a seventh-grader representing St. Pius X, said he was nervous participating for the first time.
“I feel good (now) because we’re in second place (in the Super Quiz),” he said.
He and his teammates spent about three months preparing, meeting twice a week after school for practice, as well as studying on their own.
“I’d like to do it again next year,” he added.
Similar events, under the guiding jurisdiction of the California Catholic State Superintendents Curriculum Committee, were held in 10 dioceses in California the same day, involving more than 2,000 participants. While Denver is the only diocese outside California participating so far, Strawbridge—who introduced it here after teaching at St. John the Evangelist School in San Diego—hopes it will continue to grow.
“I believe it will continue to grow because the students want to be challenged and have a strong desire to succeed,” he said.
Individual winners, earning up to 1,000 points for their team were: Grant Adams, St. Mary, current events; Kathleen Roe, St. Thomas More, English; Grace Garrett, Nativity of Our Lord in Broomfield, and Kate Kachmer, Good Shepherd in Denver, fine arts; Marah Miller, Sts. Peter and Paul in Wheat Ridge, literature; Yuji Hwang, Our Lady of Fatima in Lakewood, Math; Vince DePizzol, St. Mary, religion; Sierra Wasserberger, Nativity of Our Lord, science; and Mitchell Brinton, Nativity of Our Lord, social studies.
Team wins, which garnered up to 8,000 points each went to: Most Precious Blood in Denver, Super Quiz; and St. Thomas More, Logic Quiz.
Schools participating included Notre Dame, Good Shepherd, Most Precious Blood, Annunciation/St. Rose of Lima in Denver; St. Bernadette and Our Lady of Fatima in Lakewood; St. Louis in Englewood; St. Mary in Littleton; Sts. Peter and Paul in Wheat Ridge; St. Pius X in Aurora; St. Thomas More in Centennial; and Nativity of Our Lord in Broomfield.