If the state win was “completely unexpected,” the national title must have come as quite a shocker:
Hughson High School’s Academic Decathlon team last week learned that it captured the national championship in the Medium School National Academic Decathlon Competition.
The win, according to the high school newspaper The Paw, came after hours and hours of study both in class and on students’ personal time.
“Any free time I had, I would study,” senior Austin Hoach said. “I would even study at track meets and before bed just to refresh my memory and make sure I knew the materials.”
The team, led by teacher Paul Michaelis, competed in eight events: Literature, Music, Science, Art, Mathematics, Economics, Essay Writing and Social Science. The focus of the event was the 1960s and the literary piece studied was the novel “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” by Tom Stoppard.
The road to the National Championship wasn’t an easy ride for Hughson because the students had to secure the win for both the county and state competitions to progress forward to this level.
“It was a lot of studying,” senior Murphy Philips said. “It was hard because it is the same materials over and over again that you are studying, so it is hard not to feel burnout, but I kept reviewing to make sure that I knew the materials and the key terms.”
The students competed on campus in late April. When he learned they won, Michaelis didn’t exactly scream it from the rooftops.
“Mr. Michaelis said, ‘We are going to study philosophy today,’ and as he prepared to start teaching the lesson, he casually said that we were the national champions, and he just announced it,” Hoach said. “Then he made us still work on philosophy, but I can barely concentrate on anything.”
Following the announcement, students got right back to work, taking only a moment to let the win sink in.
“It means a lot to get this big title coming from a small school like Hughson High,” team member Nathaniel Blazzard said.
Michaelis and the 2019 HHS Academic Decathlon team are the only school in Stanislaus County to ever secure a national win.
“I’m incredibly proud of my students, both the team members and the alternates,” Michaelis said. “It takes a lot of time and effort to be a good team in AcaDec, let alone a national champ.”