“A Contest of Academic Strength Through Teamwork”

Molly Ritchie, former WIAD State Director

GT coordinators are always searching for challenging curriculum, team building exercises and unique methods to engage not only the top scholars in school, but the gifted and perhaps “at risk” students as well — the ones who “have it” but are just not performing well in the confines of the straight rows in the traditional classroom. 

Academic Decathlon offers a program of study and a team experience that cultivates challenge at many levels.”

Michael Fesenmaier, New Berlin Eisenhower Principal – May 2012

This is an accomplishment that recognizes the expertise, passion, and dedication of the coaches, support of the parents, and the commitment, intellect, and collaboration of the team members and other members of the Academic Decathlon class.   This success is also a product of the efforts of the dedicated instructional staff at New Berlin Eisenhower for their continuing efforts to support learning in each of the areas of the decathlon along with their daily dedication to our entire student body.”

Mary Callen, Communications Director, WI Newspapers Assoc. –  Feb, 2014  “Last year, I volunteered to judge the interviews and it was wonderful.  I’ll be back again this year.  Talking with some of the state’s brightest students left me feeling very optimistic and proud.  (I was also feeling a bit like a slacker when I head about what these young people had already accomplished in life.)”


Grace Richmond, Sun Prairie School
“I also want to take this time to tell you what a great program we have in Wisconsin.  Academic Decathlon has really changed my life- I have really great friends on my team and I am learning more than I do in the regular classroom.  Thanks for all you do!”

 Shaun Soman, Iowa-Grant High School

“Academic Decathlon was an important part of my high school experience because it allowed me to challenge myself in ways that a regular curriculum could not.  The four years I have spent in Academic Decathlon have inspired me to be a lifelong learner.”

Grace Enloe, Iowa-Grant School

“I was originally reluctant to join Academic Decathlon, but after three years of persuasion, I finally gave in.  My only regret is that I didn’t give in earlier.”

Charlie Connolly, Iowa-Grant High School

“Academic Decathon is a good way for students to further their knowledge in various studies that they would not otherwise be able to learn about.”

Dec. 3, 2012 Article – Double Trouble?   Click Here to View

Eric Schumann, New Berlin Eisenhower High School

“Academic Decathlon was an incredibly rewarding part of my high school experience and a great challenge that prepared me for both college and the future.  The dedication it required as well as all the knowledge I gained helped me focus my interests in economics and mathematics toward my current studies in actuarial science.  I rarely make it through much more than a week without having some reminder of something I learned in Academic Decathlon.  Aside from all the studying, I really enjoyed bonding with my team and coaches over the long hours of study as well as the wonderful opportunities I had to beta test with DemiDec.”

 Delaney Cairns, Green Bay Southwest High School

“Decathlon gives you a broad, cultural, applicable knowledge base. Your teammates and coaches serve as your decathlon family and give you confidence to find your limitations, and work beyond them, in both WIAD and everyday life.”

 Kevin Plazak, New Berlin Eisenhower High School

“Eisenhower did not lose.  Waukesha West won.  I don’t know how much time they put in, but I do know that our team has done 13-hour school days for at least two weeks.  They get no contempt, no anger, no jealousy – only the respect a defeated rival can produce.

So, my score dropped…. I did not reach my goal.  Our team did not reach its goal.  I wallowed in my pity last night.  But I woke up with a clear head, and looking at everything that we have accomplished together, I have absolutely zero regrets.  I appreciate the Decathlon for giving me the opportunity to flex that other muscle in my head that isn’t my tongue.  I appreciate my coaches, Ms. Blue and Mr. Fountain, for their profound dedication to us and to this competition.   The world needs more teachers like them.   I appreciate Waukesha West, simply because if they weren’t this good, we wouldn’t be either.  I, above all, appreciate my eight brothers and sisters on this team.  Each one brings a different personality to this group that makes us a family.  I specifically appreciate Jack, for taking each step of this journey the past two years with me.   Together, we grew from being overly-confident, mediocre jerks to being dedicated, focused, respectable Decathletes.  Congratulations, Jack, on taking the series lead 4-3 over me.

In the end, it’s not how well you do in the Decathlon, but how well you apply what you’ve learned in the Decathlon.   I have become a comfortable public speaker.   I have learned the value of work ethic in an academic setting.   I have developed the ability to learn from and teach peers, even underclassmen.   Most importantly, I have developed a career interest that, fortunately, I have the capacity to do well in.   I owe many things to this competition, this team, and these people I have surrounded myself with.   I have become a better man since I started high school, and much of that is due to this great organization. “

Anuraag Girdhar, Waukesha West High School

 “Academic Decathlon has provided me with focus, with inspiration, with friends, with culture.  I don’t know where I’d be without what I’ve learned from Decathlon, most of which transcends the curricula themselves.”

Bobby Robbins, McFarland High School

 “Academic Decathlon has taught me the importance of studying and how to build friendship with teammates.”

Tanner Rasmussen, McFarland High School

 “Learning how to study is only half of what Academic Decathlon is about. The other half is about learning to make connections with teammates and having fun doing it.”

Brad Stieber, Marathon High School

 “Academic Decathlon provided me with the tools I needed for academic success. Not only did my performance in AcDec improve, my performance in school improved immensely as well.”

Randy Kruser, Southwestern Wisconsin High School

“Though I have only once participated in Academic Decathlon, I believe that my involvement with this year’s team (the first team at Southwestern since the 80’s) has not only allowed my intelligence to flourish, but also given me the ability to expand into academic areas that are not my usual forte. In the future, I believe that this experience will allow me to reach a higher comprehension capacity in new studies. The diversity between my teammates on Academic Decathlon (in all areas from academic fields of interest to social life) reflects the real world in which great differences bring us closer as a society.


Johannes Christian Paetzold, German Foreign Exchange Student

Southwestern Wisconsin High School

“The academic decathlon offered for me as an exchange student the opportunity to meet many interesting and different people from different schools.”

 “Further on it made it possible for me to improve my skills in understanding, writing and communicating in English.” 

 “I profited personally from the German education system, and my French skills, which gave me little advantages in some subjects.”


Johannah Rigdon, Southwestern Wisconsin High School

 “Academic Decathlon gives students equal opportunities to learn priceless study skills and time managing skills that will be useful throughout our life time.  It allows students who usually are C average to compete and even beat kids who are at the top of their class.  It shows them that they are not average and they can achieve B’s and A’s with time and effort.”

“It also introduces the classics to students.  I bet many kids didn’t even know who Charles Dickens was before this.  Public speaking is the second fear adults have and it is just another skill that we as students have to learn and compete in.  Because this was our first time ever competing in the academic decathlon, we set up a practice meet with Iowa Grant, who have competed before.  They where wonderful hosts and they really helped us prepare for the real test.” 

“The Academic Decathlon is a great opportunity for any student.  It teaches you great skills to use in and out of the class room.  By participating in this competition we have learned that winning is not based on how many teams you beat but what you learn and the experiences you gain on the way.


Jeffrey Spence, Waukesha West High School

“Academic Decathlon is a really good competition and unlike March Madness it teaches you a lot of skills you can use later on in life because in a job you may have to interview or public speak but you will never have to dribble or shoot three point shots.”

Seth Mulhall, Deerfield High School

“Of all of the many activities I have participated in throughout my high school career, none has proved as valuable as Academic Decathlon.  Even when I first joined the team as a freshman, it was already becoming a second family.  The coach, the upperclassmen, the study sessions, and the actual competitions were all things that proved extremely valuable.  The coach always went out of his way to make me feel welcome, as if I was part of his family.  The chocolate, the Halloween parties, and the occasional breakfast banquets were just perks of an already wonderful experience.  Along with our coach, the other students on the team did their best to make me feel at home when I first joined, and it only continued from there.  As the years passed, I met people that I never would have met outside of the team, and I made some new friends.  Also, these friends helped me learn how to study properly through our study sessions, considering I never really learned how to study through elementary and middle school.” 

“Finally, the actual competitions for Academic Decathlon taught me how to take a test.  While that may not seem very valuable, in today’s world of standardized testing, knowing how to take one is half of the battle.  Because of Academic Decathlon’s extremely difficult tests, the ACT and SAT suddenly became very easy.  Academic Decathlon has been the most cherished part of my years at Deerfield High School.”

Andy Gesior, Waukesha West High School

“The most important thing you learn is how to learn. . .Decathlon is about motivating people who may not be motivated about school.”

“I think it’s a great opportunity for anyone who hasn’t maybe had the best outlook on (extracurricular) activities-it helps you see you can be a good competitor.  And it’s helped me grade-wise and in teaching me a ton of life skills.  It’s actually increasing my ability to do well in school.  It helps students like myself who don’t come in with the best work ethic and helps with time management skills and the importance of working toward a goal.”

Andrea Metz, Marathon High School

“Decathlon has exposed me to real-life situations that require skills that cannot be acquired in the classroom.”

David Byrne, Waukesha West High School

“I found a work ethic in it, something I’d never done before, my grade point average has gone up sharply since joining the decathlon team and I have learned a lot about how to apply myself.”


Sean Kennedy, Green Bay Southwest High School

“Decathlon is one of the best programs out there, you are driven to be better.”


Michael Abere, Waukesha West High School

“We aren’t quite as close on other teams, here we almost live together.”


Caitlin Segriff , Green Bay Preble High School

“I love to push myself to new limits.”


Rachel Anderson , Wilmot Union High School

“We’re more like a family than a bunch of students.”


Dio Traverso, Wilmot Union High School

“The Academic Decathlon isn’t just about learning facts and figures. Preparing for the competitions helps me strengthen my study habits and memorization skills, and the information I’m learning is broadening my scope of mental acuity.”

Andrew Kohrs, Sun Prairie High School

“I cannot even begin to explain how much this program has meant to my teammates and myself.   I probably will not be able to fully realize the value of Academic Decathlon for years.




Randy Ebert, Melrose-Mindoro High School
Coach Ebert was honored for 30 years of coaching at the March 2014 State Competition.

“Thirty years and thirty teams add up to quite a bit.   Decathlon has directly impacted over 350 of my present and former students including my own son.   I can honestly say that nothing I do as an educator gives me more personal satisfaction than Decathlon. Additionally, I believe that the rigor and routine I have developed in molding teams over the years has translated directly into my effectiveness as a classroom teacher.   My expectations and my belief that any student can be great are a direct result of Decathlon.   I often hear from past decathletes, and all of them say that what they learned and how they learned was their best preparation for college and beyond.

 We are a very small star in the constellation of great teams and coaches.   One of my past decathletes described Melrose-Mindoro as a public school with one hallway, out in the woods five miles from a town of 500.   But, all my students venture out into the greater world after graduation believing that they can succeed because Decathlon allowed them to measure themselves against the best in the state. 

 One student who came to see me Friday was a sophomore at Madison.   He told me that he had blown off his art appreciation assignment to study for a chemistry exam.   When he went to the art class the next day he was called on.   He was asked to explain Berlioz’ Symphony Fantastique.   Decathlon kicked in—and he went on for over ten minutes before the instructor gently stepped in saving the rest of the class from a description of the “idee fixe”.  Ya just never know when a bit of knowledge becomes critical.” 

Jake Winkler, Iowa-Grant H S

Personally, I believe that Academic Decathlon is one of the best
ways to get students excited to learn.  Integrating competition into academics gets students fired up to study.  The curriculum is challenging and interesting.  It is rewarding as an educator to see students engaged in helping each other get smarter.”

Randy Ebert, Melrose-Mindoro H S

“I would say often times the lowest grade-point average students are academically the most talented.  What they don’t have is the drive or the interest in traditional coursework.  A lot of them are bored in school and Decathlon gives them a chance to start over at zero with a different group.  They’re in a small group of people who learn quick.”

Daniel Keeney, Southwestern Wisconsin H S

“Being from a small rural community in the southwestern corner of Wisconsin, our students are not blessed with all of the opportunities of their big city counterparts. Academic Decathlon has given our students a chance to show that a quality education can be found throughout Wisconsin and especially in our corner of the state. The Wisconsin State organization has been a tremendous help in building our team and getting us ready for competitions. It has been a wonderful experience for our school and our students. “

Gordon Kendall, Green Bay Preble High School

 “This competition provides a unique opportunity for academically oriented kids to show their talent.  The Academic Decathlon challenges kids to expand their intellectual horizons.  Keep in mind; this is not for “geeks” — you must have exceptional interpersonal skills to excel at Academic Decathlon.  The speech and interview really bring out the best in the kids.  I have had multiple students over the years tell me that “this was the only time I was able to compete at what I was really good at.”


Coach Randy Ebert, Melrose-Mindoro High School

“I see a potential in each of their faces and promise that they can all be something wonderful and feel proud of their achievements in my classes and I have that feeling because, in great part, Decathlon teaches me to see that it is not just an event that touches the participants — it touches my perspective and the WIAD staff cultivates that and brings it out.”

Coach Diana Gullicksrud, Whitehall High School

“This (AD) gives so many students the opportunity to challenge themselves academically and compete in a venue that is not a field, court, mat, or rink!”

Coach Duane Stein,  retired from Waukesha West High School

“The key to the school’s success is that the Decathlon’s competitive goal inspires the students to develop a work ethic that isn’t always present in traditional educational structures.”

Coach Rob Campbell, former Sun Prairie H S, former McFarland H S

“WIAD is important because it allows students to learn in-depth for the first time, and see how concepts in subjects such as art, music, and science relate.  We’ve had kids (in the Sun Prairie program) who would have almost never made it out of high school, let alone gone to college that have succeeded because of this program.”

“We’re getting kids from all over the high school, kids who have never even met each other before. Through WIAD they create a whole new network of friends.”  

Former McFarland Coach Chris Curro 
(Some of his former “C” students have shown remarkable improvement in their school studies as a result of participating in this program. )

“The students now have a reason. They see how it works-they see how good achievement feels.  I had a student whose mother came to me after their child participated in the program”, Curro continued. “She told me she thought (WIAD) was the hook her student needed to get on track at school.”

Coach Wendi Tavs, Marshall High School

“I had one student in WIAD who wasn’t going to take any (additional) classes last year as a freshman, and now this year he is taking chemistry and is on track to attend a four-year college.” “I’ve been able to get some of those at-risk students-“C” students who should be “A” students-to achieve something in WIAD.   They are really proud of what they’ve been able to do.”


School Administration


William Baumgart, Waukesha West School Board President

“You have the feeling that this (Academic Decathlon) makes it OK to be smart, where in times past it was ‘eggheads’ and ‘dweebs.’ “


Doug Straus, former Waukesha West Principal

“The program provides role models among the students and staff, promotes a culture of learning and demonstrates what can be achieved when teachers and students collectively set high expectations for themselves.”




What has Academic Decathlon meant to you?

Rufus King Alumni

“The AD was very important to my development, and a treasured memory.”

Menomonee Falls Alumni

“More than anything, it taught me how to learn. It’s made a huge impact on my grades in school, helping me in all of my classes, and I have met some of the greatest people you could ask for. Academic Decathlon is the reason I will miss high school.

Wauwatosa West Alumni

“Ac Dec was the most challenging and rewarding experience of my high school years.   It provided a forum for me to achieve at the highest levels of my academic abilities outside of the school environment and helped me to develop the confience needed to succeed at the university level.”

Waukesha West Alumni

“Academic decathlon has meant the world to me.  All the hours of studying, rehearsing speeches, and writing essays gave a real purpose to my senior year at Waukesha West.  Academic decathlon has been a wonderful experience in which I made new friendships and competed at the highest level.  Even now decathlon has inspired my career choice to go into the field of surgery as our science the year I participated was anatomy.  Academic decathlon has influenced me greatly and will contiune to influence me throughout the rest of my life. “




Sam Martino —My son Patrick, who currently is in the diplomatic corps in China, competed in the Academic Decathlon twice at state.   He attributes part of his success in college and becoming a member of the Foreign Service to the skills he learned during competitions.”

Kimberly Redding (Waukesha West Mom) First off, THANK YOU a million times for making Academic Decathlon work in Wisconsin!!!!!  It is a wonderful program, and a great community in which the kids learn not only communication skills and subject matter, but also how to support each other. ie.e. how to be community, face-to face.”

Parents of a former decathlete

“Our son’s performance at school was inconsistent and he was an emotional wreck.  We had some concern that he would consider leaving high school as a junior.  Our son was nominated to apply for the WIAD team; he came in with an academic average of 2.66.  Not only has he thrived as a member of the team, he has greatly contributed to the team’s success.  His accomplishments have been stunning!  His grade point for first semester 12th grade rose to 4.55!  Our son is a far different young man than the one we saw only a year ago.   He not only manages his academics successfully, but is managing his life better too.”

Parents of a decathlete

“In a time where so much emphasis is placed on high school athletic competition, it is wonderful to see good healthy competition available in the academic arena.”




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