RUMFORD — Each year students at Mountain Valley High School compete against their peers from across the state in the Maine Academic Decathlon. They take competitive tests in language and literature, art, music, science, economics, mathematics and history. Speeches and interviews are also part of the competition. All tests are centered around this year’s theme: World War I.

The MVHS team included seniors Shawn Bennett and MacKenzie McInnis as well as juniors Griffin Hamel and Michael Lloyd. Retired social studies teacher Ron LaBerge was the adviser.

The topic was what encouraged two new team members.

Senior Shawn Bennett joined the team for the first time and said, “The topic this year was really interesting to me and I wanted to study it.”

Senior Griffin Hamel echoed that motivation. “I was interested in the topic – World War I.”

“I was ‘encouraged’ by a friend,” said junior Michael Lloyd, “because of all the fun stuff we do the day before.”

That fun stuff included going to the Maine Mall, eating out at the Home Town Buffet and catching a movie, “Pompeii.”

The next day they were more challenged.

Bennett said, “At Academic Decathlon, we tested in 10 subjects with the scores being counted after each test. There was also a speech and an interview that we had to do during the competition.”

Bennett continued, “The best part for me was the feeling of completion at the end of the day.”

For Lloyd the experience was capped a little differently.

Lloyd said, “My favorite part was the super-quiz. It was fun working as a team in a ‘Jeopardy’-like game.”

MVHS has a proud history at the competition. The team began competing in 1991 and has accumulated 215 medals over that time. Much like the Olympics, gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded for first, second and third place.

This year’s team added to the medal count. McInnis earned a bronze medal in social science and was the team’s high scorer.

McInnis said, “I have competed in Academic Decathlon for three years and this is the first year that I’ve medaled. I earned not just one but two. That’s awesome.”

Prior to the day of fun and the day of testing, team members met once per month with their adviser. Between meetings, they studied material from Decathlon.

Bennett described his preparation, “Personally I studied the packets that Mr. LaBerge gave us and reviewed my AP (advanced placement) European terms.”

Then it was off for the Decathlon weekend.

Griffin said, “It’s a lot of work and a long day at the Decathlon, but worth it if you win medals.”

Lloyd said, “It is worth the hard day because of the fun things we do the day before.”

Bennett added, “It is great fun and you get to learn a lot about a subject.”

LaBerge appreciates the support for the team. “Our school district has always financially backed the team. We are the envy of some of the other competing schools in that regard.”

The Maine Academic Decathlon selects a team to compete at the national level. The mission of the United States Academic Decathlon is to promote learning and academic excellence among students of varying achievement levels by developing and providing multidisciplinary academic competitions using USAD-based curricula.


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