Showdown at state


A question pops up on a large screen, and the three team members have 20 seconds to mark an answer.

Once the answer is read, the proctor checks to see if the team is correct or not.

If it is, the team members raise their hands, and the number on their scorecard is changed. If not, the scorecard remains the same, and the team members focus on the next question. After 25 questions, the team returns to the stands.

In its first time competing in the Indiana Academic Super Bowl Senior Division area competition at Austin High School, Trinity Lutheran High School had a lot of hands raised and scorecards turned.

The science and interdisciplinary teams scored 22 out of 25 for first place in Class 4, math scored 16 for first place, English had 15 for third place, social studies tallied 11 for second place and fine arts had 13.

Members of the science, math and interdisciplinary squads became even more excited when they learned they qualified for the state finals. That’s set for Saturday at Purdue University’s Loeb Playhouse in West Lafayette.

“My first thought was just so thrilled and happy for the students,” said Ben Stellwagen, a resource teacher at the school who coaches the math, science and social studies teams.

“The best part of the area competition was seeing them leave the table after they had done so well at their round and just come back with huge smiles and just be really excited about the job that they had done,” he said. “That was the reward for all of the preparation that they had put in.”

After looking at scores from the 279 schools statewide, Trinity found out its interdisciplinary score was the highest across all four classes, which are divided based on enrollment. The interdisciplinary squad brings together team members from all five subjects.

Also, the science team finished with the top score statewide in Class 4, and the math team tied for the fourth-best score in Class 4.

Of the 70 schools in Class 4, Trinity and the Indiana Academy for Science, Math and Humanities in Muncie are the only ones with three state-qualifying teams.

“I’m sure it will be hard in the moment, but I hope that they can just relax and enjoy it for the moment that it is, especially with the seniors on those teams,” Stellwagen said of the state finals. “It’s one final opportunity that they get to work together and see how much fun it is to actually be working with one another collaboratively.”

This is the 30th year of the Indiana Academic Super Bowl, which has the Senior Division for high schools and Junior Division for middle schools. It is run by the Indiana Association of School Principals and sponsored by Purdue University.

With the state’s bicentennial being celebrated this year, the theme is “Hoosier Heritage.” The content in each subject is tied closely to that theme.

Teams across the state began meeting in the fall to prepare for the area competitions, which were April 19 at 21 host sites.

After the results were compiled across the state, teams from 99 high schools qualified for the state finals. Opening ceremonies will start at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, with the first round to start 15 minutes later. The last round is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m.

Stellwagen said Trinity started an Academic Super Bowl program to provide another academic extracurricular opportunity for students.

“Oftentimes, there is an emphasis placed on sports, and we have a great drama program here, and we have a robotics club,” he said. “Anything else that you can do to engage students academically outside of the school day, I think, is a good thing.”

Stellwagen said he likes how Academic Super Bowl applies to students who have a variety of interests. A student can be on up to two teams, and then could be chosen to be on the interdisciplinary team.

“So because you have all of these different subject matters, you can have a student who really loves math and science, but maybe English isn’t their favorite,” he said. “Then all of a sudden, there is a place for them, so you can really appeal to the entire student body.”

Trinity has 14 students involved in Academic Super Bowl. The majority of them are seniors, while each team has at least one sophomore, and there is one freshman.

“Our faculty looked last year at our incoming senior class and knew that one of their great strengths was academics. We have a very solid senior class,” said Michelle Bauman, an English teacher and recruitment director at the school and coach of the English team.

“We had been debating starting an Academic Bowl team for a while, and we wanted to make sure that we had it in place for this year’s senior class and would like it to continue for as long as it possibly can,” she said.

Seniors Luke Onken, Ethan Neawedde and Chris Rust are members of the science and math teams along with sophomore Rachel Onken. Luke Onken and Neawedde also are a part of the interdisciplinary team.

When he was in fourth, fifth and sixth grades, Onken said he participated in Math Bowl.

“It’s kind of different from this, but it’s kind of the same,” he said. “I enjoyed that setting, so I thought I would do it again. I love math and science. That’s mainly why I did it.”

Rachel Onken was familiar with Academic Super Bowl because she did it a few years ago in middle school.

“I thought it was cool when I heard that Trinity was going to get a team. I really wanted to join it,” she said.

Neawedde wants to be a biochemical engineer, and Rust and Rachel Onken both want to be engineers, so joining the math and science teams fit in with their interests.

“It’s really interesting because I’m the sophomore here, so I haven’t done the precalculus and calculus, so it’s really fun to see what I’ll be learning in the next few years,” Rachel Onken said.

At the area competition, Luke Onken and Neawedde competed, but Rust was sick, so Rachel Onken stepped in.

“It was really fun to work with Ethan and Rachel. The three of us all had fun working out the problems,” Luke Onken said.

“We went to a practice competition before this, and we didn’t do that great, so it was really awesome when we went to the area competition to do that well,” Rachel Onken said.

Neawedde said the teams were happy about qualifying for state.

“We were hoping that we would get (to state) in interdisciplinary and science, but we never knew we were going to get it in math, too, so it was a happy surprise to know that we got it in all of them,” he said.

Now, the Onken siblings, Neawedde and Rust are gearing up for state.

“We are a little weak on a couple of areas, and we are hitting those a little harder,” Luke Onken said.

“I think it will be a more serious competition, and we will deal with more pressure than the area competition,” Neawedde said.

Rust said he is excited to compete at state and expects it to be competitive.

Senior Tanner Prewitt will compete at state with the interdisciplinary team, representing the English and social studies teams.

He said the area competition was a good experience, especially in the interdisciplinary round.

“I remember sitting there, and we were going through these questions, and we were getting them like that,” Prewitt said, snapping his fingers. “We were looking at them, and we knew the answers. They were questions that we just all knew. We didn’t really struggle. I was extremely proud of us to do that.”

Trinity’s sole freshman, Nathaniel Bauman, is on the English and social studies teams and will make the trip to state to help the interdisciplinary team.

“I thought it would be a fun thing to do,” he said of participating in Academic Super Bowl. “I’m good at academics, so I thought, ‘This is what I’m good at, so I might as well try to compete in it.’ Also, my mom (Michelle) wanted me to do it.”

Stellwagen said the best part about advancing to state has been having a chance to continue working with the students.

“That has been the greatest joy in this whole process,” he said. “They really do come enthusiastically ready to learn at 7:30 in the morning (for weekly meetings). They are the ones that ultimately put in the work, so whatever they are willing to do is how well that they will perform.”

Michelle Bauman said she has fed off of the energy of the students, and she is ready to see how they perform at state.

“It definitely reaffirms that what we’re doing at Trinity is preparing our students for whatever they decide to go into in the future,” she said. “Academically, we’re a really strong school, and this (area) competition confirmed that. We have students that are very dedicated to being successful academically as well as in other areas.”

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Meet the Trinity Lutheran High School Academic Super Bowl teams

English: Nathaniel Bauman, Maddie Lucas, Tanner Prewitt, Amy Wooten and coach Michelle Bauman

Science: Ethan Neawedde, Luke Onken, Rachel Onken, Chris Rust and coach Ben Stellwagen

Fine arts: Cole Allman, Cameo Hildreth, Abby Moses and coaches Matt Jung and Lori Moses

Social studies: Nathaniel Bauman, Tanner Prewitt, Emily Thompson and coaches Ben Stellwagen and John Anderson

Math: Ethan Neawedde, Luke Onken, Rachel Onken, Chris Rust and coach Ben Stellwagen

Interdisciplinary: Abby Moses, Ethan Neawedde, Luke Onken and Tanner Prewitt

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Senior Division of the Indiana Academic Super Bowl

Content: The high school competition is made up of five subject matter rounds — English, science, social studies, mathematics and fine arts — and a sixth interdisciplinary round in which questions may come from any and all of the subject matter rounds. Some interdisciplinary questions will require knowledge of at least two subject areas.

Team selection: Each of the five subject area squads will consist of no more than five students. The interdisciplinary squad may consist of seven students. Any given student may compete on a maximum of two subject area squads and also may compete on the interdisciplinary squad (three squads total).

Eligibility: Any student enrolled full time in grades 9 through 12 is eligible to compete on a high school team.

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