JDHS student near top at acedemic decathlon

Posted: Sunday, March 12, 2000

Britt Arnesen, a junior going on college student, led Juneau high school students at the recent GCI Alaska Academic Decathlon and picked up a pile of medals.

``I'm the official literary genius now. It's not just theoretical,'' she joked.

The Juneau-Douglas High School team placed eighth out of 36 teams overall in the Anchorage event on March 2-4.

Students were tested in 10 events, including six written tests in subjects such as economics, art and science. They read a novel and a play, and wrote an unprepared essay on those books or a scientific topic.

``So they have to be able to think well on their feet and be very organized,'' said JDHS English teacher and decathlon coach Karin Reyes.

Students also gave prepared and impromptu speeches, and they answered questions in an event similar to a college entrance interview.

The decathlon climaxed with a ``Super Quiz'' of written and oral answers on this year's topic of the sustainable earth.

Arnesen's prepared speech was on the individual's responsibility to pursue happiness because ``you have to beat happiness into people sometimes,'' she said.

In sophomore Colleen Keane's speech, she ``tried to touch on why society wants adults to be so different from children, when everybody likes kids.''

The Juneau students seemed hungry for a chance to compete academically.

``I enjoy education, but our school system is not focused on education,'' Arnesen said. ``It's focused on sports and politics.''

``We were very spirited,'' said sophomore Candace Lancaster. ``Our motto was `eat that chicken,''' derived from a Charles Mingus jazz song they learned about for the music competition.

Arnesen, who placed fourth overall out of more than 300 students, picked up second-place medals in the honors division in art and language/literature, and placed third for economics, music and the Super Quiz.

Arnesen is a junior this year, but she'll attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks next school year to study geophysics.

The decathlon takes students with an A average for the honors division, as well as B students in the scholastic division, and C students or less in the varsity division.

``They're trying to promote students who haven't maybe put much effort in their regular classes - promote their participation,'' said JDHS math teacher and decathlon coach Carol May.

``Every year we seem to get some C students who feel challenged and do really well,'' she said.

Additionally, JDHS freshman Andrew Bauer won a second-place medal in the varsity division for the interview, and senior Nichole Bauer was second in the honors division for her essay.

Keane scored well enough to place second in the honors division in language/literature, but as an alternate she wasn't eligible for a medal. Teams are allowed to bring up to three students and one alternate in each of the three divisions.

Mackenzie Slater, a Juneau girl who is home-schooled through the Galena School District, was first in the honors division for her essay, second for her speeches, and third in language/literature.

Slater also had the top score on her team, Interior Distant Education of Alaska, which placed second among schools in a rookie category.

Also competing for Juneau in Anchorage were junior Ian Stangl and seniors Zach Edwards and Tanya Ewing.

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