Waukesha West Academic Decathlon Preparing for National Competition
Students showcased their speeches that they are taking to nationals.
The Waukesha West High School academic decathalon students, who are preparing to head to the national competition for the 10th consecutive year, gave a special showcase of speeches they prepared for the decathalon on Wednesday.
The audience included parents of current decathletes, parents of past decathletes and a few past decathletes themselves. Each of the nine students presented both their prepared speeches as well as impromptu two-minute speeches based on audience questions.
Waukesha West earned the state title and will be competing in Charlotte, NC, April 27-30.
In 2002, when they first competed, they won the national title, which "shocked the nation," said their coach, Duane Stein.
It was the first time that either California or Texas had not won.
Decathlon encompasses a wide range of talents and grade point averages. There is a good mix between the nine; three are honors students, three are scholastic and the last three are varsity.
The honors students are ones with a gpa of between 4.00 and 3.75, scholastic are between 3.74 and 3.00 and varsity students are between 2.99 to 0.00. The audience was to try to guess at who was who, but based on their speeches alone this proved to be quite difficult.
Stein said that there are 12 speeches that compete in the speech showcase at nationals and that usually one of the kids from Waukesha West will compete in that.
In addition to the speech event, other areas that they will compete in include interview, language and literature – including a critical reading test, economics, social science, geology/super quiz, math – algebra and trigonometry this year, music and art.
There is also a theme each year. Abby Stein and Tyler Thompson talked about how the theme of this year is the Great Depression. This includes knowing the history of it, as well as the circumstances in the United States at the time.
The literature portion includes reading The Grapes of Wrath and an essay, while the music section includes jazz, blues and even show tunes from the 1930s including Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals. The music section includes a listening section where the composer or style may need to be identified.
“Quite honestly, academic decathlon is a life changing experience," Stein said.
The students are ready to compete yet another year on the national stage and are "very focused, very serious," Stein said.
"They obviously have their eye on the prize," Stein said.