Penns Valley

On Centre: Penns Valley | Academic decathlon team has strong showing at state finals

Penns Valley academic decathlon students finished with accolades at this year’s state finals.

The nine-member team competed at the finals Feb. 28 and March 1 at Souderton Area High School outside of Philly.

The Penns Valley team faced six large schools and seven small schools, and ended the competition with 15 medals, a tie for third place among small schools for the super quiz relay and a fourth-place overall finish in the division.

“It was disappointing that we didn’t place in the top three, but I’m really impressed with how they did individually,” said coach Sarah Farrant.

Farrant said nine students were chosen to participate in states this year out of about 50. Those with the best scores from the regional competition earlier this year moved on.

Each student had to answer a total of 341 multiple-choice questions, write an essay, conduct an interview and give two speeches. The difference between the Penns Valley score and the school that finished in third place was only 76 points — or about four multiple-choice questions out of 2,010 questions that counted toward the team score.

Junior Maria McQuaide earned eight medals from the 10-event competition: bronzes in art and essay, silvers in music and economics, and golds in literature, math, history and science.

Senior Mitchell Shuey earned bronzes in science and interview, and gold in math.

Senior Ben Engle won two silver medals, in essay and math. And senior Andy Hankinson and junior Ben Kupp each took silver in math and essay, respectively.

To prepare, Farrant said, the academic decathlon team members meet twice a week and then take it upon themselves to study independently. There is more than 1,000 pages of material to review, Farrant said.

“I feel that it’s empowering for me for the future,” junior Dan Kozar said about his time with academic decathlon.

The goal next year is to make it to the state finals again and place in the top three.

“I think we have a promising future,” Farrant said. “These kids are really bright, and it’s a great thing that prepares them well for college. It allows them to master a lot in a small amount of time and with little teacher support.”

The theme for next year’s academic decathlon is “New Alternatives in Energy: Ingenuity and Innovation.” The district competition will be hosted at Penns Valley, states will be in Erie and nationals will be in California.