In the future, when students at the Maine Academic Decathlon are asked to define “dynasty,” answering Scarborough High School will probably be counted as a correct answer.
The school’s team rolled to a 10th straight title, and 24th overall, at the all-day event Saturday at Deering High School.
Shane Davis, one of the team’s coaches, said the nine intellectual athletes will now need to turn quickly to fundraising, to pay for the team’s trip to the nationals in Hawaii in April.
Davis said the team’s formula is simple, with juniors and seniors conveying to freshmen and sophomores an “infectious enthusiasm” for the event, which combines testing in academic categories, essay-writing, speech-making, interviews and a free-for-all lightning round of 36 questions at the end of the day.
It appears other teams in the state are going to have to up their game considerably if they hope to bump Scarborough off the top spot – Davis said some of the strongest members of this year’s team are freshmen and sophomores.
Monmouth Academy – which state decathlon chairman David Heckman noted is the only team to have ever beaten Scarborough – finished second and Bangor High School finished third. Bangor High also won an award as the team improving its score the most compared with last year.
The crowning of Scarborough High at the end of the awards ceremony wasn’t much of a surprise. Team members had already racked up multiple bronze, silver and gold individual awards in the academic categories, their medals clanging against one another as they ran up to accept yet another on a ribbon around their necks.
Earlier in the day, there was plenty of nervousness on display from the 11 teams.
None of the students waiting to deliver their speeches looked thrilled to be there Saturday morning. Some stared into space. Some ran through their prepared orations for a final time. Others nervously glanced at their note cards.
And there were few smiles as the students counted down the seconds until their turn before the judges. The speeches of the academic competition are the most stress-inducing event at the decathlon, students said.
“I was really nervous,” said Kristen Robbins, 18, a senior at Bangor High School. She was among 99 students from 11 high schools across the state competing in 10 different disciplines.
The students spend hours studying for the competition, which this year was based on World War I, with questions about science, mathematics, art, literature, social sciences and history, usually related to the war and postwar era.
The students are tested in the different subjects, write an essay, deliver both prepared and impromptu speeches and undergo an interview.
Longtime speech judge Lucy Rioux, a teacher at Oak Hill Middle School in Sabbatus, said the speech portion levels the playing field between students with varying grade point averages. “That is why I come back every year,” Rioux said.
Her fellow judge and Oak Hill Middle School colleague, Kathy Kauffman, said a good orator makes little use of notes, has strong articulation, makes eye contact, stays on point, and might walk about. She said the talented speakers quickly stand out from the rest.
The event ended with the lightning round, with students given 15 seconds to answer each of the 36 multiple choice questions. The teams split into groups of three and each group tackled 12 questions.
The first question asked: Where was Michelangelo’s “David” originally scheduled to be displayed? Answer: At the roof-line of the Florence Cathedral. (Townspeople later moved it to a gallery when confronted with the dilemma of raising the 6-ton marble statue to the top of the cathedral.)
Other questions dealt with economic theory, the properties of blood antibodies, the plot of Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” gospel music and World War I strategies.
Scarborough won the lightning round with 24 of 36 correct answers.
Beth Quimby can be reached at 791-6363 or at:
Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: