This decathlon does not take place on a track and does not even require running shoes.
It is a test of endurance, but there’s typically little sweating involved.
The Richmond County school system’s Academic Decathlon, which ended Friday, made students from eight high schools push their brains to perform feats of knowledge. It is a competition of book smarts and mental strength, with the prize being a spot in the state championships. Coming out of it, some students earned much more.
“Man, after this, I feel accomplished, guys,” Butler High School junior Jamaree Moore said to his teammates before leaving the event at the Academy of Richmond County. “We’re the first team to represent Butler in seven years. You know the other kids doubted us, but we gave them a run for their money.”
The event began earlier this week with each nine-member team writing essays, giving interviews and delivering one prepared and one impromptu speech to a panel of 10 judges. On Friday, each team took written tests in seven academic subjects, then scribbled answers to questions thrown at them in front of an audience, known as the Super Quiz.
The winning school was to be announced Friday after judges tabulated the scores, and coaches said participating is a show of strength.
“It’s incredibly difficult,” said Westside High School decathlon team coach David Bradberry. “I mean a 50 percent passing score would be impressive.”
During Friday’s Super Quiz round, students were posed Olympic-level questions:
Mendel’s law of segregation describes a process that occurs during which stage of meiosis? What was the impetus that triggered Bolsheviks to launch their coup d’etat in 1917? In Katherine Mansfield’s short story The Fly, what is the symbolism of the death of the fly in the ink pot?
Decathlon Coordinator Andre Mountain said the event gives students who might not be athletically inclined a chance to compete against their peers. It also brings students of all academic levels together – each team has three students with GPAs below 2.99, three between 3.0 and 3.74 and three with a 3.75 or higher.
“It builds confidence, it builds self-esteem,” Mountain said.
Westside competitor Eni Asebiomo, who had to give an impromptu speech on an Eleanor Roosevelt quote, said he and his teammates studied with flashcards and performed mock interviews with each other to prepare.
Asebiomo, a senior who participates in cross country, track and student council and is mulling an offer from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the event gives students a different outlet from class work or sports.
Every team hopes to make it to state championships, but trying to outthink others to the extreme is thrilling in itself, he said.
“You get really stressed out, but it’s worth it,” he said. “In sports it’s all about the competition, but here it’s different. You have to think about things differently than in regular class. It feels good to just compete.”