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RHS Academic Decathlon Team Wins State Championship

Submitted by the Rutherford Public Schools

The Rutherford High School Academic Decathlon Team won first place in the State Championship and will now move on to the national competition. This is the third time Rutherford has won the State Championship.

“It's a pretty rare thing to accomplish,” said teacher and coach Jason Narozny, who has been involved with Decathlon for more than two decades. “For us, it seems to come in bunches. I just hope I don't have to wait another 10 years to do it again!”

Rutherford High School won the State Championship in 2009 and 2010 under Narozny’s guidance. Last year the team placed second overall in the state and was headed to Nationals in Alaska until the pandemic hit, canceling those plans. This year, all of the competitions are virtual.

“There were many logistical challenges running this year's competition virtually,” explained Narozny. “Hundreds of students and volunteer proctors and judges had to be organized into Zoom breakout rooms for speeches and interviews, as well as for the objective tests. It required patience from all involved, but everything came together to give the students the best experience possible given the situation.”

Academic Decathlon is an annual competition comprising multiple-choice tests, speeches, essays, and interviews. Students attempt to outscore their peers in science, literature, art, music, social science, economics, and math in relation to a theme. This year’s topic was the Cold War, with science focusing on Astronomy and the basics of the Space Race, and Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, Cat’s Cradle. The students started studying for the competition beginning last May.

“Since much of this program relies on students studying on their own, being unable to do very much else during the pandemic, Academic Decathlon sort of gave the students something to focus on,” said Narozny. “I feel having success in Academic Decathlon as our collective goal brought some sense of normality to all of our lives. The team didn't seem to allow the pandemic to be an excuse to not do well in AD!”

In addition to taking home the State Championship, Rutherford students also won more than 50 individual awards. RHS Senior Prerana Thippesha received the second-highest score in the State, was named the Regionals MVP; Erica Chen, a sophomore, was the 3rd highest scorer in the state and also was named Regionals MVP; Senior Huda Oskui received the highest score in her category and Kara Brennan, Junior, was voted the Team’s MVP for the State competition.

The team is now preparing for the United States National Decathlon Finals, which will take place online from April 28th-30th. The results of the competition will be announced on May 1st.

Rutherford High School students win Academic Decathlon State Championships and are now headed to Nationals. Team members are, from left to right starting with the front row: Vidihta Vaghasiya, Erica Chen, Dana Serea, Giselle Concepcion

Left to right, back row: Juan Dominguez, Sami Abuauad, Nico Schumacher, Hiba Siddiki, Prerana Thippesha, Christina Rodriguez, Alyssa Castillo, Kara Brennan, Kenisha Vaghasiya, Huda Oskui, Jason Narozny. Not Pictured: Andrew Chu, Hasti Patel

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