Penns Valley

Penns Valley academic decathletes take second place in national event

Pictured are members of the PennsValley Academic Decathlon team. In the front row, from left: Haley Brown, Ben Kupp and Josh Martin. Second row: Dan Kozar, James Steffen, Maria McQuaide, Harrison Burd and Jeremy Shawley. Back row: Samantha Bastress.
Pictured are members of the PennsValley Academic Decathlon team. In the front row, from left: Haley Brown, Ben Kupp and Josh Martin. Second row: Dan Kozar, James Steffen, Maria McQuaide, Harrison Burd and Jeremy Shawley. Back row: Samantha Bastress. Photo provided

Late last month, the Penns Valley Academic Decathlon team walked away from nationals with some extra bling.

In their first-ever appearance at the national level, they attained second place and received 11 medals, adviser Sarah Farrant said.

University High School in Fresno, Calif., placed first.

Penns Valley was the winner of the small-school division at the state competition in March, making them eligible to compete in nationals.

Only one team from each state traveled to the competition in California. This year’s team that represented Pennsylvania was from North Penn High School.

But divisional winners like Penns Valley competed at the national level online.

Farrant said Penns Valley faced 15 other state championship teams in the national online finals April 17, and competed in eight categories: art, economics, essay, literature, math, music, science and social science.

The team was made up of Samantha Bastress, Haley Brown, Harrison Burd, Dan Kozar, Ben Kupp, Josh Martin, Maria McQuaide, Jeremy Shawley and James Steffen.

McQuaide, whose score at states set a Pennsylvania record, came in fourth place overall at nationals. She also won six medals, Farrant said.

Kupp placed fifth and took medals in math and science; and Brown placed 10th in the honors division.

In the scholastic division, Bastress medaled in literature and placed seventh, and Steffen placed ninth.

In the varsity division, Kozar placed fifth and medaled in math and art.

“Academic Decathlon really made a lasting impact on me,” Kozar said. “Participating not only exposed me to additional material, but helped me to learn on my own.”

McQuaide said most students had similar study schedules to prepare for regionals, states and nationals. She said she spent four to five hours a day studying during any free time she had.

The study time paid off.

“I never would have expected at the beginning of this season to be competing at the national level,” Bastress said. “It still feels surreal to have won second place in our division. The entire team worked so hard this year, and it’s really great to see that hard work pay off.”

Farrant said the goal at the beginning of the year was to win the third-place small-school division plaque, which the team missed the past two years.

“Since we exceeded that goal, earning two first-place plaques — one for winning the small-school division and the other for winning the Super Quiz relay — at states, our next focus became a national banner,” Farrant said.

A banquet will be held May 29 to celebrate the team and officially present medals and the national banner.

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