Above: The 2023 EGHS Academic Decathlon team after winning the competition for the second year in a row. Submitted photo
They travel to Texas for the national competition in April
The EGHS Academic Decathlon team put together a winning effort for the second year in a row, capturing the state championship at the March 5 competition at Bryant University. In addition, the team’s coach, Latin teacher Ben Revkin, received the Augustine Capotosto Jr. Award.
Students meet regularly throughout the school year to prepare for the Academic Decathlon, which (as the name implies) features tests in 10 subject areas centered around whatever the topic is for a given year. This year’s topic was the American Revolution. They aren’t always so traditional – last year’s topic was Water.
While the EG team competed in the national competition last year, it was virtual, aka, not particularly exciting. This year, an in-person nationals will take place for the first time since 2019. The team will travel to Frisco, Texas, April 27-29. The team last traveled to a national competition in 2010.
Seniors Zalmay Ahmed and Emmett Bassen-Alexander both credit Revkin for setting the right tone for Acadeca, as it is informally known.
“Mr. Revkin is great at it,” said Zalmay. “He’s not a slave driver, he’s not whipping us. I think the crucial thing is he’s not making you study, he’s steering you toward studying.”
“Mr. Revkin’s experience also helps us,” said Emmett. “His knowledge of the ins and outs of competition has been a massive benefit to the team. He knows how to make Academic Decathlon a club students want to join year after year, and I attribute our team’s success in large part to him.”
As it happens, the coach’s award is named for Gus Capotosto, who lived in East Greenwich.
Preparing for the Athletic Decathlon is a year-long effort and some teams are a bit more hardcore than others. The East Greenwich team is decidedly not hard core, to hear students describe it.
At the beginning of the school year, the team learns what the subject will be for that year’s competition and they start meeting weekly. It’s not an intense schedule..
“We’re just kind of into it for fun,” Zalmay said. “For our team, Acadeca is for fun. We get together, we get a couple of pizzas, and look at the guides and we hang out.”
“I would say that it’s not that we don’t take the actual competition seriously, [it’s] more that our team attitude isn’t overly invested in scores or points,” he said. “When we meet as a team it is always very fun more than anything. We all care about the competition and we’re all competent, but our team attitude is always supportive and lighthearted. I think that positive team spirit is what helps us be a good competitor. We all want to do well, but we know the other team members will be supportive and kind regardless of our numerical score. We all just want each other to have a good time.”
This was sophomore Sunny Wang’s first year competing. She had been interested in joining her freshman year but the Thursday time slot was tight with her other activities. This year, even though the tight schedule remained, she decided to make it work.
She didn’t know what to expect since it was her first year and, in a way, that helped her stay calm. Ironically, she said, the subjects she medaled in – music and economics – came as happy surprises. She had considered math and science to be her strengths.
Sunny had a good time though and plans to stay with the team next year.
Will the team’s laidback approach work at Nationals? Zalmay said he his doubts. But then again, it might just be their secret weapon.
Zalmay Ahmed earned gold medals in art, music, and social studies; silver in literature and math; and bronze in science. Emmett Bassen-Alexander earned gold medals in music and art; silver in math; and bronze in literature. Sunny earned silver medals in economics and music. Find all the results here: 2023 AcaDeca Team Results.