Academic Decathletes Take on High School and Then Some

Columnist Deb Robi writes about WHS’ Academic Decathlon Team.

If you think that high school is tough in 2012, you ought to stand in the shoes of a small group of dedicated students with a true thirst for knowledge.

Try carrying a full course load AND agreeing to take on even more. That’s what members of Wellesley High’s Academic Decathlon Team do. Each year, working with their advisor, students with a love of learning, compete in the annual competition that tests their mettle, guts and their intellects. 

Wellesley’s 2012 academic team placed a proud second-place in the state wide Academic Decathlon final held on March 3 at Westwood High School.  The only real competition came from the students of Acton-Boxboro’s decathlon team. They have placed first in the state decathlon fr the past 12 years.  

“A lot of kids end up joining “AcaDec” as it is known, because they have a friend whose doing it, or an older sibling,” says  English teacher and team advisor John Finneron.  Just as in athleticism, students learn the value of working together in a competition that stresses the importance of teamwork in becoming a life-long learner.  

This year’s theme, “The Age of Empire,” has led these hard-working teens to dig deeply into topic of Imperialism, and what led to European global order. Wellesley students competed in the fall successfully, and followed up with a second place finish in the finals, bringing home the trophy. “They stepped up their studying, and they got serious,” says Finneron.

Every year there’s a theme of focus that’s divided into categories like art, music, economics and science. “It’s essentially preparing every week and then working together on the key elements,” says Finneron. His team worked out the kinks early, spent months in training and it all paid off with a win. You might say it's "The Hunger Games" for brain skills. 

Each student takes an area of focus, and Finneron says the students follow up with one another to make sure the team knows its material. The academic rigor is evident. Their advisor calls the team “dedicated and diligent,” as any proud coach in an athletic endeavor might. He says students who are motivated to learn are the real story. The Academic Decathlon program started in 1981 by an educator who understood learning potential is maximized through competitive challenges.

So, is it cool to be smart? With Wellesley's impressive results, the answer is decidedly YES.

THE 2012 Wellesley High  team Academic Decathlon Team is:

Josephina Lin

Sherman Lu

Haruki Moriguchi 

Samantha Kumarasena

Sridhar Rangan

Kevin Hu

Harry Li

Naomi Ali

Rishi Solanki

Alexander Mitchell

Christina de Fontnouvelle

Ben Xie

Bennett Capozzi

Emma Lloyd


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