Waukesha West Academic Decathlon team returns to nationals

Published on: 4/21/2014

They didn't win the state meet, but the Waukesha West Academic Decathlon team can still win the ultimate prize: a national championship.

That appears to be a difficult task with its state score significantly lower than some of the top-tier schools this year. But given the Wolverines' track record at nationals over the years, the team is hoping for another strong finish.

The three-day national meet, which features 45 teams from across the country, begins Thursday, April 24, in Honolulu.

Waukesha West is competing at nationals for the 13th straight year and has finished in the top 10 every year.

The team won a national championship in 2002 under the leadership of former coach Duane Stein. This year's group is led by first-year coach Amy Unti-Runnells.

Her squad joins Wilmot Union as the only two Wisconsin schools at nationals. Wilmot Union automatically qualified after taking first place at the state meet last month.

This was the second straight year Waukesha West finished second at state. Waukesha West previously finished first at state for 11 straight years.

West's state score of 40,368 is just one of 18 schools in the national field that scored more than 40,000 points during their respective state meet. But West would have to improve significantly from state or hope for a major drop-off from a top-tier team if they are to bring home the top prize. There are three schools entering nationals with state scores in the 50,000 range.

Three-time defending national champion Granada Hills Charter High School in California was bested in its state meet by El Camino Real Charter High School.

Waukesha West finished ninth overall at the national meet last year, which took place in Minneapolis.

The academic decathlon team is broken into three divisions of students: Honors (3.75-4.00 GPA), Scholastic (3.00-3.74 GPA) and Varsity (0.00-2.99 GPA). The top two individual scores from each team in all three divisions are totaled into a team's overall score.

The decathlon features written tests in art, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music, science and social science. In addition to essay writing, decathletes will give a speech and an interview in front of judges, and participate in the Super Quiz Relay.