Academic Decathlon » AcaDec 23-24 Season Recap

AcaDec 23-24 Season Recap

St. Pius X Academic Decathlon takes 5th at Nationals!
After placing in the Top Three at the National Finals for three consecutive years, it was looking like a difficult year for SPX Academic Decathlon this school year with the loss of over half of all potential team members. But a small core of three dedicated seniors combined with three rookies to continue a strong tradition at our school.
Hard work and team bonding paid off. Although a full Academic Decathlon team has nine students, Saint Pius X fielded a team with the minimum of six this year. At the end of February, they won our school’s 23rd State Championship, earning the right to represent New Mexico at the National Finals. Even though our team did not have a full complement of nine students, Saint Pius X took 5th Place overall in Division III, high schools with enrollments of approximately 1000 students or fewer! 
The United States Academic Decathlon was founded with a purpose of developing well-rounded individuals with strong leadership qualities. The competition prepares students in 10 subject areas including art, music, literature, history, economics, math, science, essay writing, speech, and personal interview. Teams may be composed of up to nine total students, three each from high, medium, and lower GPA categories. This year’s topic of focus was timely: Technology and Humanity. Art focused on innovations in Art throughout history; Music featured scores of science fiction movies over the last 90 years. The Literature category consisted of the novel The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin and several short stories featuring humanity and robots. The History section covered the development of computing machines and the internet; the Science category centered on the human nervous system and the brain; the Economics category covered all major topics of macro- and micro- economics and a special section relating to the effect of technology on economics.
The core of the 2023-2024 Saint Pius X Team was composed of three veteran members who had competed and medaled for Saint Pius X at Nationals in Academic Decathlon in previous years: seniors Chidike Anozie, Adam Vigil, and Jonathan Constable. The other three members were new faces to the starting lineup who added their skills to the team: juniors Santos Barela, Jonathan Cappon, and Andrew Baldonado. 
After the COVID-19 pandemic, 2024 marked the second year that USAD has returned to in-person National Finals competitions. Last year, Saint Pius X traveled to the Dallas, Texas, metro area and earned a Top Three overall team finish. This year’s Nationals were held in Pittsburgh where SPX students did pick up some local slang for their “Yinz.” At the concluding Awards Ceremony, Saint Pius X students won twelve individual National Medals, and when the overall top teams were announced, Saint Pius X had placed Fifth in the country in Division III!
A list of the higher individual achievements at the National Championship follows.
* Honors Division *
Jonathan Cappon National Bronze Medal in Essay
Andrew Baldonado 4th Place in Essay
* Scholastic Division *
Adam Vigil National Silver Medal in Interview
  National Bronze Medal in History
  5th Places in Mathematics and Literature
Santos Barela Scholarship for Team MVP Award
  5th Place in Essay
* Varsity Division *
Chidike Anozie National Gold Medal in Speech
  National Silver Medal in History
  National Silver Medal in Literature
  National Bronze Medal in Art
  National Bronze Medal in Essay
  4th Places in Economics, Mathematics, and Science
  National Division III Plaque for Overall Score
  Scholarship Winner, Bronze Medal for Overall Score
Jonathan Constable National Bronze Medal in Mathematics
  National Bronze Medal in Literature
  National Bronze Medal in Interview
  4th Place in Essay
  5th Places in Art and History
  5th Place in Overall Score
The first time that USAD decided on using a divisional system, where large, medium, and small schools were separated into separate categories for head-to-head competition, was 1999. Saint Pius X earned the National Championship of Division III that year in Anaheim, California. At the 2001 National Finals in Anchorage, Alaska, St. Pius X was moved up to Division II when numerous additional small schools were allowed to compete at the National Finals that year, and the team captured Third Place overall with a strong performance. In the last two years, during the pandemic, our school placed Third and Second in the nation when the national competition was held online.
The team would like to thank Mrs. Barbara Ducaj for serving as the team’s official proctor for the online portions of the competitions, allowing the team to participate in this year’s virtual Nationals. It would also like to thank SPX staff members Jonathan Ball, Elisa Machtinger, Abby Tarin, and Nicolas Albonico for assistance in preparation for the Personal Interview portion of the competition. 
This is the 32nd year that Saint Pius X has competed in the United States Academic Decathlon. James Penn, mathematics and science teacher at SPX, started the program in the 1991-1992 school year. There were numerous highly competitive teams in New Mexico in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, making the winning of a State Championship quite difficult, but Saint Pius X kept moving up the ladder and eventually won its first State Championship in 1998. Since that time, Saint Pius X has collected twenty-three State Championships and has often placed among the top six teams in Division II or Division III at the National Finals, including five Top Three Team Trophies and National Banners. 
This year SPX Academic Decathlon was very fortunate to have three juniors join, as the team was on the verge of not having enough participants to compete. Despite this lack of breadth, Saint Pius X still achieved a very respectable placement at Nationals. 
“We could always use a few more students for next year in order to field a complete, competitive team,” Mr. Penn stated. “You don’t have to be a genius or a perfect straight-A student to join or do well.” In fact, every team needs students from both higher and lower GPA ranges to compete, and each student only competes head-to-head with other students in the same category as themselves. Please consider Academic Decathlon as an activity you might want to participate in; you may be the one to help us compete at the National Finals in Des Moines next year! 
Congratulations to every team member! Thank you for making this school year a successful and memorable one!