Academic National Champs Repeat


Kelly Pien, Opinion Editor

Academic Decathlon placed first at the Medium School Online National Championships for the 2nd year in a row. Team members Marina Han, Uma Gaffney, and Zach Scherer were the top 3 scorers in the country for the honors division, while Sarada Symonds, Christoph Steefel, and Tristan Caro repeated the feat in the scholastic division. Vikram Bhaduri was the 2nd highest scorer overall in the varsity division.

Scherer believes the team approached the contest with confidence. He said, “I think that we found the tests to be challenging as they always are, but knew that if they were challenging for us, they’d be challenging for all the other schools as well, and so that reduced our concern.”

Coach Paul Verbanszky said he received a phone call in the early morning on Thursday, May 8, congratulating him and the team for winning. Verbanszky was “incredibly excited and couldn’t wait to tell the rest of the team, and also relieved because there was a lot of pressure on the team to win this year.”

Verbanszky then texted Caro, who is the team captain. “I was really glad that since I put a lot of work in, I didn’t let myself down or the team,” Caro said.

Verbanszky said the pressure was internal. “I did not want the team to feel the disappointment of not winning because they have worked so hard to come so far,” he said.

“I think there was some pressure on us to be able to repeat what we did last year. At the same time, I feel like that we have a really strong team and had a lot of experience from past years and so that helped us a lot to get past that,” Scherer said.

8 out of the team’s 9 members will be graduating this year. Caro said, “There’s a lot of opportunities for the underclassmen to fill the roles the seniors have left.”

The team was honored by US Congressman George Miller at a ceremony in the campus library on May 12. The team also plans on celebrating with “a big end-of-year barbecue,” according to Verbanszky.

“I’m really excited that we won,” said Scherer. “I think it shows that our hard work can pay off. We’ve done a lot of work all year.”