That was part of the theme for this year's United States Academic Decathlon, and it rang true for Wilmot High School Saturday as it took first place in Division 2 of the national championship held in Bloomington, Minn.
Taking this year's theme, "The 1960s: A Transformational Decade," to heart as well as mind, the nine-student team held strong against teams from across the nation as well as China and the United Kingdom.
The competition was intense and the outcome was close, said Wilmot decathlon team coach Don Serkowski.
"Less than 500 points separated first and second place," he said.
Highlights as reported by Serkowski included:
- "Junior Marcus Wolff was the highest-scoring decathlete in all of Division 2, and as the highest-scoring Honors student, he received a $1,000 cash scholarship.
- "Sophomore Ian McCutchan received a $1,000 cash scholarship for being the highest-scorer in the Scholastic division in Division 2. He was Wilmot’s third highest scoring decathlete at the event and was the most improved since state.
- "Senior Austin Adam earned a $1,000 scholarship for being the highest-scoring decathlete in Division 2 in the Varsity division. It was an amazing way to end his two-year career as a Wilmot decathlete!"
After the win,the team spent Saturday night in the Twin Cities after their flight to Chicago was canceled due to snow.
This was the team's third Division 2 national win in the last five years.
While not the first time the school had placed first in the national Academic Decathlon, it was the first in the past three years, Serkowski said.
The team came to the national competition after successfully defending its state title in March.
Strong on Friday
On Friday afternoon, Wilmot tied for first in the live Super Quiz event with teams from Alaska and China.
Before the finals, it looked as if a team from Indiana was the one to beat. As the competition raced up to the finish line, it was Wilmot and an Iowa team that came in second, with Indiana in third position.
Serkowski noted that Wilmot did not beat its overall points record as hoped, but said that all of the schools' points went down a bit.
However, he added, it was the first time the school garnered top scores in each of the three student categories: Honor (3.750-4.00 GPA), Scholastic (3.00-3.749 GPA) and Varsity (0.00-2.999 GPA).
Wolff's winning the economics award was especially outstanding, Serkowski said.
"He beat every decathlete in the nation, regardless of division or state, in economics and was awarded the B. Franklin Reinauer II Economics Prize along with a $250 cash scholarship.
"Marcus was also voted most valuable by his teammates, receiving another $250 cash scholarship. He also received yet another $250 scholarship for being the team’s highest overall scorer."
Theme rings true
This year's study theme was very relevant to the team, noted Serkowski.
"The 1960s transformed the (school environment) of today, and even the decathlon program itself," he said.
The music category was particularly challenging but well received by the team, he said.
"This particular team can sing, and you would catch them in the halls walking along, humming and singing."
This year was also transformational in that it is the first time the school has won gold since most members of the previous team graduated in 2016.
"Last year we won state but didn't do as well at national (the team placed fourth)," Serkowski said. "The golden banner is a big deal. It’s all about the banner."
Looking ahead, Serkowski said he doesn't want to predict anything, but has "very high hopes for next year" as well.