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Entire academic decathlon team recognized as ‘Student of the Month’ for 22 years of winning state

The Jefferson Academic Decathlon Team is in its 22nd year in a row of winning the state competition.
Published: Mar. 29, 2022 at 7:45 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Jefferson Academic Decathlon Team in Cedar Rapids is in its 22nd year in a row of winning the state competition. That’s part of the reason why the entire team is the KCRG-TV9 ‘Student of the Month.’

The decathlon team is tested and judged in ten different categories, ranging from speeches, essays, interviews, science, literature, and math.

Kevin Darrow is a language arts teacher at Jefferson. He’s in his fifteenth year as a decathlon coach, with nine of those years at Jefferson High School. He says the students spend an estimated 500 to 600 hours each year on the decathlon team.

“We study anywhere from 6 to 8 hours a week, and we’ve been studying almost every week since August,” said Olivia Proctor, a senior at Jefferson and team member. Adam Swartzendruber, another senior at Jefferson, said that’s just the minimum expectation. “Beyond that it’s all up to us and we put many hours each week beyond what’s required,” Swartzendruber explained.

It’s not the only thing the students are involved in. “For rugby and decathlon going on at the same time, I would go from rugby practice to decathlon,” Proctor said.

Their hard work pays off, and has been for years. “We’ve won state for the last 22 years, we’ve repeatedly placed in the top 6 at nationals, at state we won 60 of the 90 medals available, and we’ve just been kicking butt for a long time,” said Swartzendruber.

They want people to notice what they’ve accomplished. “I wish people knew the amount of time and dedication we put into what we do to accomplish our goals,” Proctor said. “I think a large percentage of our school population, not to mention the community, doesn’t really know what decathlon is, and I think that’s a large problem, because I think our decathlon team should be a source of pride for our school and for our community,” Swartzendruber said.

Darrow explained, since students have to know about a wide range of subjects, it’s to the credit of all teachers that they’re well-rounded students. The parents also play an integral role in the success of the team. “It’s a sense of pride and accomplishment for the school, I think Jefferson is very proud of the students,” Darrow said. “It’s a long history, literally hundreds of students have come through here and left with state championships.”

The students say they appreciate what being on the team has taught them, both in facts, and friendship. “I already knew a lot of people going in, but there were some people I had never talked to, and through decathlon I think I’ve become very good friends with them, and I’m really grateful for that,” Swartzendruber said.

That’s why the entire team is KCRG-TV9′s Student of the Month. “This is a family type of team, we have to work together, we have to share our time schedule in order to get together to practice, so getting recognized as a team is what matters,” Darrow said. “I think it’s great that it’s not just one of us that gets the award but all of us, because we share in that victory together,” Swartzendruber said.

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