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Assignment: Education - Academic Decathlon

By Lisa Klein, lklein@wkbt.com
Published On: Apr 24 2013 09:12:54 AM CDT
Updated On: Apr 24 2013 09:16:44 AM CDT
MELROSE, Wis. -

These Melrose-Mindoro High School students are warming up.

"We got to run with the big dogs," said Randy Ebert, Melrose-Mindoro Academic Decathlon coach.

But they are not a part of the track team.

"It's an awesome team sport," said Jake Merrell, Academic Decathlon member.

Their feet are in motion because their brains are racing.

"You're expected to kind of go through and know a whole bunch of facts about seven different subject areas," said Kelsey Woodward, Academic Decathlon member.

This team practice is to prepare these 14 students for their next big Academic Decathlon.

"This is a nerd binder," said Ebert.

Inside this, so called, nerd binder is everything these students need to know to prepare them for the ten events and the Super Quiz that make up the decathlon.

"You're almost supposed to memorize it so you can just pull facts at random," said Woodward.

"The overall theme of decathlon this year is Russia," said Ebert. "And each year they have a theme and all of the art, music and everything else relates to that theme."

"One night we had a crash course in Russian language," said Woodward. "That was interesting."

The students meet for about three hours every Sunday night beginning in September to prepare for their first competition in November.

"You have two months to learn seven subjects all the way through," said Woodward. "So, you go."

"I teach in an hour on a Sunday night what would take me a week to teach in a classroom," said Ebert.

And laughter helps this team retain pages upon pages of information so they're prepared for all seven tests, an essay, two speeches and an interview.

"I think the key really is to make it as fun as possible," said Ebert.

"The thing is repetition," said Merrell. "The more times you can use that information you have stored in your brain the more chances you are going to be able to pull it out and use it in a test."

This Academic Decathlon coach of 29 years has seen his style of coaching really pay off.

"We are the winning-est team of any kind in the school's history, said Ebert.

"We have been to Regionals 26 years in a row. We have been 2nd or 1st in the Regionals every year for the past 5 years. We've been to state 7 of the last 10 years."

And this year, the Mel-Min Academic Decathlon team accomplished something no other team at their high school has done before.

"We're the first team to win a state championship," said Merrell.

"This year it was just like... first and first and it was just like, 'Wow,'"said Woodward.

"For a school of 220 kids... yeah... they rocked it," said Ebert.

Now these students are warming up and stretching their brains for the national competition.

"We've done better and better as years go on," said Ebert. "Part of that success.... and this is true of any athletic team... a lot of your success depends on the people who came before you."

So, maybe, slow and steady really does win the race.

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