Waukesha West Academic Decathlon team finishes fourth at national meet

Redding had one of country's best scores

May 1, 2012

Though it didn't quite reach its ultimate goal, the Waukesha West High School Academic Decathlon team still had another impressive showing at the U.S. Academic Decathlon Championships held April 26-28 in Albuquerque, N.M.

The Wolverines accumulated 48,169 points in their 11th straight trip to the national meet and finished fourth out of 32 teams. Their score was just 54.2 points behind the third-place team, which West coach Susan Otto said is about a 0.1 percent margin.

Otto said her team's finish showed everyone that West was just as strong as ever.

"In the fall, the national discussion was that Waukesha West would fall well into the double digits, so our placement at the national competition proved lots of people wrong," Otto said. "It was a true team effort, not only from the students, but also the coaches, the parents, all of the teachers and the entire school community."

West entered the national competition with the third highest state score (47,412 points) and while it improved at nationals, it needed to be nearly perfect to defeat the champion - Granada Hills, a charter high school in Los Angeles.

The title is Granada Hills' second straight and its 54,081.8 points is the highest total in the history of the national competition.

Rockwall High School in Texas entered the meet with the second-best state score, but like Waukesha West, fell one spot at nationals.

This was a result of Whitney Young Magnet High School (Ill.) leapfrogging eight schools to finish second at nationals. The Chicago-based school scored 41,578 points at its state competition but improved by more than 8,000 points at nationals.

Even so, West still had the top Division 2 score (enrollment between 750 and 1,500 students). Each team, which features nine students, is broken into three categories (Honors "A students," Scholastic "B" and Varsity "C").

For students on the 11 Division 2 teams, West's Thomas Redding and Michael Ferschinger finishedsecond and third, respectively, in the Honors Division. William Tyndall finished second in Scholastic and Tyler Thomsen, Emma Nelton and Jefferson Kutcher ranked first,second and third, respectively, in the Varsity Division.

Redding's 8,681.8 points were West's highest individual total and the sixth best in the country. Out of all the schools, Redding also had the highest mathematics score in the Honors level, while Thomsen had the best math score in the Varsity category.

The decathlon consists of tests in art, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, an essay, a speech, an interview and a super quiz.

West's fourth-place finish is a repeat of its 2010 showing. In the team's storied history, the Wolverines have finished third five times (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2011), second three times (2003, 2008 and 2009) and won a national championship in 2002.

This was Otto's first year leading the troops at West and credits her assistants, Vince Ricco (an English teacher at West) and Lee Schmidt (retired math teacher) for their work with the team.


Following are the top four schools at the U.S. Academic Decathlon Championships held April 26-28 in Albuquerque, N.M.

1. Granada Hills High School, Los Angeles

2. Whitney Young Magnet High School, Chicago

3. Rockwall High School, Rockwall, Texas

4. Waukesha West High School, Waukesha


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