Academic Decathlon team takes second at state
Last year, the New Richmond High School Academic Decathlon team finished third at the state tournament, but it also lost all but three of its members to graduation. For the team to improve and get closer to a first-place finish it would need to rebuild and find new members dedicated to studying and competing.
“Originally, I was really nervous because everyone except for a few people had graduated from last year’s team, so it was kind of a gamble on what our team would be like this year,” said junior and second-year member Ally Halonen. “But in the end, it turned out really well, and we had a lot of really great people who were good additions to the team.”
In the end, the team was able to do more than just find replacements for the graduated seniors; it was able to take second place in Division 2 at state and have a good time doing it.
“I think the kids did a great job this year, but there is always more that we can do,” said NRHS Academic Decathlon coach Jarrod Harmdorf. “I want the kids to enjoy themselves and to learn a lot as well. I want them to enjoy their time together and the rest will come as it comes. It is a great way to get kids to learn; it is basically using competition to get kids to learn. I enjoy it and I hope the kids do too. And I also want to win.”
The New Richmond Academic Decathlon team includes Honors division members (students with a GPA from 3.75-4.0) Ally Halonen, Victoria Johnson, Elliot Smallidge and Breelyn Karno; Scholastic division members (GPA 3.0-3.74) Meredith Jarchow, Danni Juhl, Brenna Connolly and Austin Hatzenbeler; and Varsity division members (GPA 0-2.99) Nick Bradish, Jake Postma, Colton Jenderny and Kai Stevens.
“I was really impressed with our level of dedication and the level of excitement that we had throughout the year,” said Connolly, who just joined the team this year. “I think we did really well. Coming out of the local competition, we scored really well and scored higher than the state champ, so I think that got us studying harder for the meets to come.”
As one of the new members to join the Academic Decathlon team this year, Connolly wasn’t quite sure what she was getting herself into when heading into the season.
“I didn’t really know much about what the process entailed, so I really relied on some of my returning teammates and kind of took it as it came and figured it out as we went along,” Connolly said. “It ended up turning out fine. Once you get a grasp on it things get easier.”
As a team, New Richmond finished second, but it also had many members place in their events, including Halonen, who took first place in the Honors Literature/Language division.
“I did not expect to place first in my area at all,” Halonen said. “I had been studying a lot, but I knew that it was an incredibly competitive competition at the state level and I knew that, even though I had studied a lot, there were other people who had studied more than me. I didn’t even think I would be placing, let alone getting first. It was a huge surprise and honor.”
Senior Nick Bradish also did well in his events, including public speaking, speech and interview, but he was just happy to have his team return to state and to spend more time with his team.
“I was just happy to make it to state this year,” Bradish said. “One of the things a lot of people on this year’s team might have been taking for granted was that last year was our first year ever making it to state for Academic Decathlon. So coming into the year, I had a lot of reservations about whether or not we were even going to make it. But when we got first place at regionals, I was really excited because I have some really good memories from going to state last year.”
After the competition itself was over, all the teams participating in the state tournament attended an awards banquet where the individual and team awards were handed out.
“Going into the award banquet, we were feeling pretty good,” Connolly said. “We had placed third last year as a team and we felt like we had built and improved on that. So, we felt like we had the ideal team for this year, so we had hoped to place higher than last year.”
Aside from taking second as a team, New Richmond also placed third in the Super Quiz.
New Richmond is losing just three members from this year’s team, which has Harmdorf cautiously optimistic about the team’s chances to make it to the state tournament again next year.
“We have enough people coming back to succeed again as a team, but some people are going to have to step up, too,” Harmdorf said.
Although Bradish will be among the three seniors graduating from the team, he believes next year’s group of students could do even better than this year’s.
“I see next year’s team doing just as well next year if not better than we did this year,” Bradish said. “We have a lot of strong people coming back, so it is just a matter of getting them to come back and who will replace the seniors. I enjoyed my time on the team and making it to state as well. This team is awesome and a lot of fun to be around.”