It was a surprise.
So much of a surprise, in fact, that the recipient of the Gus Capotosto Award for outstanding Rhode Island Academic Decathlon coach wasn’t at Sunday’s award ceremony – at least not at that moment.
Toll Gate coach Steve Belanger had stepped out of the Bobby Hackett Theatre at the Community College of Rhode Island when Frank Lenox, Decathlon director, took the microphone to read his accomplishments, purposely leaving out his name so that that would be a surprise for the audience.
It didn’t take long, however, for the Toll Gate team to figure out Belanger would be this year’s recipient. At first, there were laughs and looks of bewilderment. What would they do without their leader? Then, collectively, they left their seats to accept the award on Belanger’s behalf. It was at that moment that Belanger miraculously appeared. The team crowded around him and he held up the award in exhalation.
The award came at the tail end of a day of testing that started at 9 a.m. with mathematics and ended in mid-afternoon with interviews.
And while the Capotosto Award was a surprise, after the presentation of individual student awards that had students clanging from their seats, as so many bronze, silver and gold medals were draped around their necks, it was obvious Bishop Hendricken would retain its position as the state winner. The East Greenwich team finished second and Cranston West placed third. Toll Gate, which fielded two teams, was fifth behind Classical.
Hendricken, which placed first in its division in the 2017 national competition and second last year, now goes on the compete in the nationals to be held April 25-27 in Bloomington, Minnesota.
Of all the schools that have competed in the 36 years of the state competition, Hendricken holds the distinction of being involved before the start of a state competition. The Academic Decathlon, a competition encompassing 10 academic disciplines including speech and interview, is both an individual and team event. Teams are made up of students with A, B and C grade point averages. Students in each of the divisions vie for medals in the different subject areas with their collective score determining the state winner.
But Hendricken entered the competition before there was a state organization. It was 1983, and the United States Academic Decathlon, which was founded in California, was seeking to build a national event. Hendricken was invited to send a team, and when they returned with several individual medals, the school community took interest. With the help of community leaders and corporate support, a Rhode Island competition was held in the fall of 1983.
Hendricken had a total score of 42,478.9 points in this year’s state competition. This is the 11th state title the school has won in the history of the state event.
Coached by Sister Carol Ann Murray, this year’s Hendricken team is comprised of Logan LeMay, David Weekers, Timothy Dziekan, Xavier Lora, Jack O’Hara, Timothy Moren, Joseph D’Alfonso, Jonas Kendra and Ryan Murphy. Moren was the overall high scorer in the competition.
Making up Toll Gate Team 1 are Jaemin Hyun, Kaylah Staknis, Elana Caparco, Madeline Davis, Jenalyn Warcup, Eunji Jang, Elizabeth Barrett, Camille Hopkins and Haylee Haney. The school’s second team is comprised of Julia Kaya, Berit Olsson, Amelia Lombard, Dylan Bailey, Alex Mehta, Victoria Cole, Kimberlea Ortoleva and Frank Verria. Serving as alternates were Abriana Skipworth, Kaleb Rubera and Carlos Betancur.