Penns Valley

On Centre | Penns Valley: Academic decathlon team strives for greatness


If you check out Twitter, that’s the hashtag trending for the Penns Valley Area High School academic decathlon team.

A group of nine students and two advisers are heading to states on Friday and Saturday at Northwestern Senior High School in Albion with a goal to be the top team in the small school category.

Adviser Sarah Farrant said Penns Valley placed fourth last year in the small school category and seventh overall.

They will face 13 teams this year, and will enter the competition as the third seed.

And only one team will qualify to represent Pennsylvania at nationals in California next month.

About 50 students compete in two scrimmages per year under advisers Farrant and Cory Zatek.

Six of the top scorers in each category are then brought to the district competition, which was held Feb. 6 at PVAHS.

With home advantage, Penns Valley took first place with a school record score of 39,435 of 60,000 points, followed by Carlisle with 31,108, Farrant said.

The team combined to win 55 individual medals of a possible 90, and took home the Super Quiz Relay trophy, Farrant said.

Nine qualified for states: Samantha Bastress, Haley Brown, Harrison Burd, Dan Kozar, Ben Kupp, Josh Martin, Maria McQuaide, Jeremy Shawley and James Steffen.

“The team is so locked-in,” Farrant said.

“These kids are a really great group. We have five kids who were at states last year as juniors and got to see what the stakes were like. That’s a big motivator.”

To prepare, Centre County Commissioner Michael Pipe worked on the interview portion with the students, along with other teachers who helped them prepare for different subjects.

The students read more than 1,000 pages of material, Farrant said.

The entire team is made of a group of standout students, but senior McQuaide finished districts with the third highest individual score in Pennsylvania with 8,754 points of 10,000.

“It was cool,” McQuaide said. “I just go out and want to be the best, and it’s my last year so I want to go out with a bang and set any records I can individually and as a team.”

She studies four to five hours a day and crams in more study time in school during her free time. She said she enjoys the art category the most this year, despite not liking it in the past.

But the team is just trying to defy the odds.

“We want to show people that a small rural school can do great things,” Farrant said.