By S.L. Hansen
NEBRASKA CITY (SNR) - For the fourth
straight year, the academic decathlon team from Nebraska City’s
Lourdes Central Catholic High School won the state championship.
In addition, team member Colby
McGinley was named the top individual scorer in the state for
the Small School Division, and also received an additional gold
medal for being the top overall scorer in the state, including
large schools. This is the first time in Nebraska’s Academic
Decathlon history that a student from the Small School division
has earned this award.
The Lourdes students began preparing
last summer for the competition, which was held at Creighton
University in Omaha. The goal is to learn a topic in multiple
educational disciplines, so that the students can demonstrate
their academic versatility.
The 10 categories are art, economics,
essay, interview, language and literature, mathematics, music,
science, social science, and speech.
Gold, Silver and Bronze medals are
awarded for individual events and total team scores. Students
also earn scholarship money if the team places 1st, 2nd,
or 3rd at regionals and again at state.
The team from Lourdes has qualified
every year to compete at the state level since the program was
started at the school 16 years ago. In the past nine years,
Lourdes has been the state champion seven times and runner-up
twice. Over the years students from Lourdes have been awarded
more than $55,000 in scholarships.
According to the model established
when the Academic Decathlon was founded in 1981, each high
school enters a team of nine students: three "A" or Honor
students, three "B" or Scholastic students, and three "C" or
Varsity students who compete against other schools’ team members
at the same academic level. Teams may also have an alternate at
This year, the topic was the Great
Depression. Students from Lourdes and other participating
schools studied numerous books and handouts about this era,
spending many additional hours on top of their regular
After the grueling competition,
Lourdes Central Catholic was once again named state champion in
the small school division (Class C and D schools). Overall, the
Lourdes team had the 3rd highest score in the state,
just behind Creighton Prep and Omaha Burke
Coach Diana Harris remarked, "Our
school gives these kids a great educational foundation. I see
our Academic Decathlon program as a way to build on that and
expand into many college-level subjects."
Mary Ann Liesemeyer and Molly Reuland
also coach the team.
"The three of us play ‘tag team’ in
organizing and working with the team members. We try to find a
balance between encouraging and pushing to get them to do their
best!" stated Mrs. Liesemeyer.
Ms. Reuland is quick to point out that
many community members and other faculty have come in to help
students prepare for and practice speeches, interviewing skills,
and essay writing.
"It really ‘takes a village’ to build
a strong team every year," she said.
After a long season, the team has not
yet finished. It will continue to study in preparation for an
on-line National Competition, which will take place in late
According to senior Derrek Christians,
"Although the extra studying can be a pain, the sense of
accomplishment makes it all worthwhile."
Team members (alphabetically) and their medal winnings: Blake
Bequette: 4 Gold, 2 Silver, 4 Bronze; Colin Boyle: 2 Gold, 1
Silver, 1 Bronze; Dane Carlson: 2 Gold, 2 Silver, 1 Bronze;
Derrek Christians: 5 Gold, 3 Silver, 1 Bronze; Steele Giles: 2
Gold, 5 Silver, 1 Bronze; Taylor Heng: 3 Gold, 1 Silver; James
Hoeschen: 3 Gold, 1 Silver; Jeff Lechner: 3 Gold, 1 Silver; Reed
Lechner: 1 Gold, 3 Silver, 2 Bronze; Colby McGinley: 7 Gold, 3
Silver; James O’Neil: 3 Gold, 4 Silver, 1 Bronze; David Warga: 6
Gold, 3 Silver.