Last week, the Academic Decathlon Team from Bishop Hendricken High School doubled the amount of medals the school had ever received at the national level, taking home seven medals from the national competition in Hawaii.
The nine team members, their coach Sister Carol Ann Murray and other chaperones traveled to Honolulu for eight days, including the competition on April 24 and 25. The school competed in the medium-sized division, finishing 12th out of 19. What was more impressive was that the team took home seven individual medals; in their past four times competing at nationals the school only had a combined six individual medals.
“We more than doubled the all-time performance,” said Dave Curtis, communications director for Hendricken and one of the trip’s chaperones.
“That’s the best we’ve ever done [at Nationals],” said Murray. “We’ve always medalled but usually only one or two.”
Murray said the team has had a very successful two years, and she will miss these students when they graduate in June; all of the team members are seniors. The team performed very well at the Rhode Island Academic Decathlon state competition on March 9, taking home 40 individual medals, and Murray was impressed with how they handled their tough opponents at nationals.
“The competition is unbelievable. It’s really, really difficult. For some of these schools, this is a religion. They don’t do anything except decathlon,” said Murray, adding that some of the teams don’t take time to sightsee, even in Hawaii, spending all day in the rooms preparing. Other schools she knows of even rent condos or small houses for the team to stay at so they are kept away from the competition. “You don’t see them until the day of competition,” said Murray.
So to see her team take home seven medals was quite an accomplishment.
“I feel they did very well. They’re a great group of kids and I’m going to miss them very much,” said Murray.
During competition, students take individual tests in seven subject areas: music, art, math, science, language & literature, social science and economics. They also compete in speech, interview and essay competitions. As a team, they also compete in the Super Quiz Relay, answering questions from all the subject areas except math. All areas of competition were based on the theme of World War II and that time period.
A total of four students took home medals for Hendricken.
Competing in the Varsity division, Patrick McDonald took home a silver medal in speech and a bronze medal in math.
Also in the varsity division, Joseph Sousa took home the silver medal in interview and the gold medal in math, meaning he was the highest scorer in the medium-sized school division for the country.
Jonathan Andrews, who competed in the Scholastic division, left the competition with a bronze medal in speech.
Finally, Warwick resident Christopher Bianco took home a silver medal in essay and a bronze medal in math and was voted Most Valuable Team Member by his fellow teammates.
“I feel incredible. During the ceremony itself I had no idea what to expect,” said Bianco. “Going up to get my math medal and seeing my two teammates behind me was the greatest.”
Even more so than being able to spend Spring Break in Hawaii, Bianco said the best part was being able to meet students from across the country that compete in Academic Decathlon. They met other high school students from California, Mississippi, Wisconsin and more.
“The best part was being able to meet the different teams from across the country. Just getting to see how big the organization is,” said Bianco. “Everyone was very friendly.”
But they did also get to spend eight days in Hawaii.
“The kids had a great time. It was a beautiful venue,” said Murray.
She had a deal with her students to keep them on track, while still enjoying their time in what most consider paradise. Between breakfast and lunch each day, the students had to be in dedicated and concentrated study mode. After lunch, they could sightsee and go to the beach.
While the students mostly spent time at the beach or around the city of Honolulu, they did take the time to see two of Hawaii’s most famous landmarks, Pearl Harbor and Diamond Head.
“The view from the top of Diamond Head [a crater] was just incredible,” said Bianco.
The highlight of the trip for Murray was visiting the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor on Easter Sunday.
“They’ve all studied it, but it’s a very different thing to be there. It was a moving experience,” said Murray.