The Road to Nationals: Academic Decathlon’s Journey To Success

After months of hard work, RHS’ Academic Decathlon team placed an outstanding third place in the online nationals! This also happens to be the last year that Mr. Narozny, beloved coach of the AD team for 25 years, will be coaching. So, I thought to memorialize both the team’s hard work and his legacy, I would detail just how the team accomplished such a feat.

The Beginning: Summertime Studying

As the 2022-2023 school year came to a close, it was just the beginning of a long summer’s work of creating slideshows, enduring lengthy readings, and utilizing the resources on USAD’s online Training Center to prepare for the then-upcoming regionals in January. That’s not to say that we didn’t have fun ways to spice up studying from time to time — visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for example, was a blast! We also threw a holiday party featuring the movie The Sound of Music, which was another way of reviewing music-related material while enjoying delicious snacks and drinks.

However, we did participate in more strenuous training, such as the Rapid Team Test Scrimmage with over 300 questions — where we ended up placing 8th nationwide, 3rd in our division, and 1st out of all NJ teams! As the Regionals rapidly approached, this was the boost of motivation we needed to push through.

The Regionals: Community Champions

On January 27, 2024, the team headed off to Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Clifton — participating in about 11 hours of rigorous competition: 7 30-minute tests (Art, Literature, Science, Social Science, Math, Economics, and Music), an essay, interview, and speech. Afterward, the team partook in the Super Quiz — a quick-fire trivia game played just for fun in front of a live audience.

In the end, RHS came first with 49 awards, the best-prepared speech (which was performed at the official awards ceremony held at RHS), and the top scores in two of the three GPA categories! With this win under our belt, it was time to look ahead towards States.

The States: A Scalding Second Place

In preparation for the States on March 2, 2024 at Westwood Regional High School, training became more extensive and intense than ever before. From holding mock impromptu speeches to hours-long virtual Google Meets over the weekends to cram, it was clear that States was going to be much tougher than Regionals.

As the bus whirred away once again, the stakes were higher than ever before — with many schools doing anything they could to get the upper hand. After another day’s worth of intense competition, we anxiously headed off to the awards ceremony — being held in Hackensack — less than a week later. During said ceremony, as school names were slowly read off one by one, all of us began to hold hands praying that we would hear that coveted title of first place once more.

There was silence for a moment, and then the results were read. RHS had come in second place, with Westwood having clutched first. Tears were shed, and emotional speeches spoken — since RHS and Westwood are similarly sized schools, only one would get to move on to Nationals in Pittsburgh and the other would attend the virtual Nationals (which included the same events, minus the speech and interview).

Although this hadn’t been the outcome that we had wanted, the team still managed to take home 26 awards and the top scores in one of the three GPA categories. During the solemn bus ride home, all we could do was look ahead to the (virtual) Nationals.

The Nationals: Virtual Victory

As the competition was being held virtually, we would compete from RHS (skipping 6th and 7th blocks and running into after-school hours) on 2 separate dates. The first half would commence on April 11, 2024, and consist of 3 subjects: art, literature, and essay. Meanwhile, the second half would occur on April 26, 2024, and include music, history, math, science, and economics.

At this point, we’re all exhausted, but we pushed through the burnout and ended up placing 3rd nationwide — beating out Texas and giving California and Wisconsin a run for their money (all of whom are considered powerhouses when it comes to Academic Decathlon). On top of this, we earned 19 medals, came 3rd place for top scoring student in one of the GPA groups, and came first in math! Despite how time-consuming and intense AD can get, it was all worth it in the end.

As this chapter of Academic Decathlon comes to a close, I’d like to send this article off with a few words from our coach.

Deciding to step aside was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make, but after 25 years, I think it’s time. This year’s team was a joy to work with, which made the decision even harder! Their dedication to learning the material was humbling to witness, and I’m thrilled that it led to such amazing success for each of them!

Mr. Narozny