The Bishop Hendricken High School Academic Decathlon team edged out Johnston for first place honors in Sunday’s statewide competition by the smallest margin in years; Hendricken maintained their title as state champions by a mere 76 out of more than 36,000 points. Only once in the decathlon’s 30-year history has a team won the title by such a slim margin – the equivalent to less than one correct answer in the Super Quiz.
“I honestly didn’t think it was us,” said Joshua DeMelo, a junior from the winning team. “It could have gone either way.”
Daniel Mason, a first-time competitor for Hendricken, agreed. “It was nerve-wracking,” said the junior of waiting to hear who had won the title on the stage of the Bobby Hackett Theater Auditorium at the Community College of Rhode Island Knight Campus. “It was so close.”
Although they missed the title, the Rhode Island Academic Decathlon will also send the Johnston team to represent the state at the nationals next month.
“We lost a lot of seniors [last year] and we didn’t think we would be able to even do this,” said Vanessa Sullivan, co-captain of the Johnston team.
“We are incredibly proud,” said Johnston co-captain Matt Courchaine, who took home the gold medal for highest scorer on his team and highest scorer overall in the scholastic division.
With 76 points separating the two teams, only one correct answer on the Super Quiz Relay made the difference between first and second. Each Super Quiz question is worth 100 points.
The Super Quiz Relay is considered one of the main events of the competition; it is also the final event of a stressful day. Nine members from each team participate, answering six multiple choice questions each. For the first time this year, the questions could be from any of the main categories, which included art, economics, language & literature, music, science and social science. The only category not included in the Super Quiz is math.
Students were given seven seconds to answer each question and had a proctor checking their answers. As each correct answer was revealed, competitors would raise their hand, signifying they had gotten the question right. Cheers from fellow teammates and audience members erupted as each hand went up.
The theme of this year’s event was Russia, so the majority of the questions had something to do with the country. Questions included determining which of the answers did not describe the second theme in the finale of Tchaikovsky’s “6th Symphony” (grieving atmosphere), the position of foreign powers during the Russian Civil War (most sided with eastern Russia), and which historical event was represented by the railroad strike in the novel “Doctor Zhivago,” which all students were required to read for the competition (the failed revolution of 1905).
In addition to the Super Quiz, students took tests in a variety of subjects, completed an essay, were interviewed by a panel of three judges and required to give a speech on a topic of their choosing.
Pilgrim High School team members claimed delivering their speeches was their favorite part of the competition. Kimberly Lavoie chose to give her speech on the inconvenience of the self-check out available at stores.
“I think they got a kick out of me,” said Lavoie about the judges’ reaction to her topic.
Her teammate Yulyana Torres gave a more personal twist to her speech.
“I did mine on the cultural divide between me and my parents. I am first-generation [in America],” said Torres, whose parents are from Dominican Republic.
Another Pilgrim team member took a more philosophical approach, using a popular children’s book.
“I talked about Dr. Suess’ ‘Oh The Places You’ll Go’ and how it relates to life in high school and college,” said Sean Morris.
Looking ahead, the boys from Hendricken are excited to attend nationals, which will occur April 25-27, and compete against teams from around the country. While they are ready for another stressful competition, many members of the team are especially looking forward to going to Minneapolis.
Jose Baez walked away with four individual medals for his achievements in various competitions.
“I am most excited about this medal for music,” said Baez. “We all divided the subjects up to help teach each other and I was responsible for half of the music area, so this means a lot.”
DeMelo and Mason were excited that they had continued their school’s streak and kept the title at Hendricken.
“We really wanted to uphold last year’s team’s reputation,” said Mason of his team’s mentality going into the event.
“It was tough because last year’s team was really good,” added DeMelo, who was also competing for the first time.
Seventeen schools competed in the 30th annual Rhode Island Academic Decathlon. Hendricken and Johnston took first and second, respectively, and East Greenwich third.
Rounding out the top 10 were (in descending order) Cranston High School West, Classical High School, Narragansett High School, Warwick Veterans Memorial High School, South Kingstown High School, North Providence High School and Westerly High School.
Hope High School, LaSalle Academy, North Kingstown High School, Pilgrim High School, The Prout School, The Wheeler School and Toll Gate High School also had teams compete in the competition.
The following Warwick students took home individual medals.
Bishop Hendricken High School earned a total of 30 individual medals:
Jose Baez competed in the varsity division and won a gold medal in Music, silver medal in Art, and bronze medals in Language & Literature and Mathematics.
Christopher Bianco competed in the honors division and won a gold medal in Mathematics and bronze medal in Economics.
Benjamin Capuano competed in the honors division and won a gold medal in Science, and bronze medals in Music and Art.
Joshua DeMelo competed in the scholastic division and won a silver medal in Music, and bronze medals in Language & Literature and Mathematics.
Andrew Dunham competed in the scholastic division and won gold medals in Music and Social Sciences, a silver medal in Art, and a bronze metal in Mathematics.
Daniel Mason competed in the scholastic division and won a bronze medal in Science.
Shane McElroy competed in the honors division and won a gold medal in Social Science, silver medals in Music and Essay, and the bronze medal in Mathematics. McElroy also won the first place plaque for Top Scorer in the Honors Division.
Joseph Sousa competed in the varsity division and won a gold medal in Essay, silver medal in Social Science, and bronze medals in Music and Mathematics.
Timothy Wright competed in the varsity division and won a silver medal in Science, and bronze medals in Art, Interview and Social Science.
Bishop Hendricken also won first place in the Super Quiz Relay.
Pilgrim High School won a total of four individual medals:
Benjamin Lopez-Carton competed in the varsity division and won silver medals in Music, Social Science, and Economics.
Yulyana Torres competed in the varsity division and won the bronze medal in Speech.
Toll Gate High School won a total of four individual medals:
Julie Burns competed in the honors division and won a gold medal in Art, and a silver medal in Language & Literature.
Muhammad Paracha competed in the scholastic division and won bronze medals in Art and Interview.
Warwick Veterans Memorial High School won three individual medals: Katelen Pick competed in the scholastic division and won a gold medal in Interview, and a bronze medal in Speech.
Gabriel Shaker competed in the honors division and won a bronze medal in Interview.