Successful academic decathlon team aiming for national title

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (WISH) – Some of the smartest teenagers in Indiana attend Martinsville High School, and they’ve got the hardware to prove it.

Thursday morning, they’ll be put to the test in a grueling mental marathon when they compete in the Academic Decathlon National Championship.

“I’m just in the zone. I can’t notice anything else around me,” said senior Stephanie Schneck.

“This is pure learning as you’d like it to be,” said team coach Wayne Babbit. “They’re doing it because they want to.”

Deep in a six hour cram session, every second counts.

Each gives them one more chance to absorb, to memorize, and push them to a point never reached by an academic decathlon team at Martinsville High school.

“I would be ecstatic if we could get a title at nationals,” said senior Austin Mayfield.

“The competition actually takes 5-6 hours by the time they finish,” said Babbit. “It’s not trivial pursuit. It’s not 10 minutes and you’re done.”

The decathlon includes seven tests including art, math, and music. Together they total 335 questions. The competition also includes an essay, interview, and a speech.

Even adults might feel that’s overwhelming.

“We’re nerds, it’s how we do it,” joked Mayfield.

But for these teenagers, the pressure doesn’t lie in the competition but rather living up to a legacy that’s literally hanging over their shoulders.

“No team wants to be that team ends our streak,” said Schneck.

For 17 straight years, no high school academic decathlon team has represented Indiana quite like Martinsville’s.

“We had no idea when we started that we were going to fill all of these walls,” said Babbit as he looked at the seeming endless amount of plaques and pictures that show previous academic decathlon state champions.

“1998 and it’s been every year since then.”

Unfortunately the label of “national champion” has been tougher to earn. But this dedicated group aims to change that.

“Being able to make history for our school and give us a positive image would be incredible,” said Schneck.

But to their coach, success isn’t just measured in banners and plaques.

“It’s the journey,” said Babbit. “It’s the trip that you take along the way, the learning. The friendships they develop here, the skills that they develop. That’s so much more important than just the score at the national.”

The national competition is held in Hawaii this year. The team should be arriving there Wednesday evening with testing starting on Thursday.

Stay tuned to 24-Hour News 8 to find out if this is the year they finally win it all.

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