After months of preparation, three competitions and a first place finish at the Ohio Regional Competition, the Academic Decathlon Ohio State Championship was a success!

This past weekend, I left student teaching at the end of the day and drove to Cleveland to meet my team, Youngstown Christian School Academic Decathlon.

What is Academic Decathlon? Academic Decathlon is a team competition where students match their intellects with students from other high schools. No, this isn’t an academic challenge or “Jeopardy”-style competition – this is the premier scholastic competition in the United States.

For the past three years, I have been the assistant coach of my older brother’s Academic Decathlon team. The decathlon season consists of local, regional and state competitions. Each year Gannon University – like many other universities – holds competitions awarding medals and offering scholarships.

At each competition, students are tested in 10 categories: art, economics, essay, interview, literature, mathematics, music, science, social science and speech. On top of this, each year has a theme – this year’s theme was the Great Depression.

On March 12 at the state competition at Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio, the Youngstown Christian High School team won the Division III State Championship! The night before the competition, I stayed up late reviewing last minute facts, listening to their prepared speeches and giving them advice for interviews. I was confident in the nine students, and knew they were more than capable of winning the competition.

Trophies aren't the only rewards for Academic Decathlon students. But this first place trophy sure is nice!

For the third year in a row, our team placed first in the small school division and third overall. Two students, freshman Charlie Spirtos and sophomore Chase Miles, even scored the highest in their division. As a team, we put in over 1,000 extra hours of studying beyond their normal school work to prepare for the competition. Together, the students won more than 30 medals across all subjects.

As I continue to review “The Grapes of Wrath” and facts about the Great Depression with the students, they will prepare to compete in the national competition online. The top three winning schools will receive scholarship money.

Words alone can not describe how proud I am of my team. Although medals are a nice reward for the students, the friendships made on the team and the memories created during competitions are rewards within themselves. These students will walk away from Academic Decathlon with a successful future ahead of them.

Next year, the theme for Academic Decathlon will be Imperialism and the novel will be “Heart of Darkness.”