Immanuel Academic Super Bowl team wins state title

Scoring 23 out of 25 at the Indiana Academic Super Bowl junior division area competition, the Immanuel Lutheran School English team placed first in Class 4.

It wasn’t until the next day the team learned it made school history.

Looking up the scores from around the state for their class on the Indiana Association of School Principals website, coaches Sandra Franke and Sue Sims saw Immanuel at the top of Class 4 for English.

That marked the first time Immanuel has won a state title in Academic Super Bowl.

Team captain Sam Dyer, a seventh-grader, said he had just left lunch and was going to recess when Sims came running up to the team members to share the news after Franke had shared it with her.

“It felt pretty amazing,” Dyer said. “We didn’t know at first that we were the first team to have done this, so when we figured that out afterwards, it made it all the better.”

The other team members are seventh-graders Lauren Brown and Emory Helton and eighth-graders Evan Abbott and Devin Love.

Through the contest, founded in 1987, teams of students enhance their research and study skills by delving into topics that change annually, taking them beyond what is usually covered in the classroom.

There are two levels of competition, junior (grades 6 to 8) and senior (grades 9 to 12). Subject area rounds for the junior division are English, math, science, social studies and interdisciplinary, and they are the same for the senior division with the addition of fine arts.

The junior division only has area competitions to determine state winners in each subject area in four different classes, while the senior division has a state competition that teams can qualify for based on area contest scores from around the state. Classes are based on school enrollment.

This year’s topic for both divisions was “Canada: Our Neighbor to the North.”

Franke said Immanuel has had teams in the top three or top 10 in the past, but it had never had a state winner before this year.

In the regional competition April 30 at Batchelor Middle School in Bloomington, Immanuel’s English (23), math (12), science (14) and interdisciplinary (14) teams all placed first in Class 4, and social studies (12) placed third. The school also had second teams in three subjects. The second math team placed second (8), the other science team placed fourth (8) and the other social studies team placed fifth (8).

When the state results were tabulated, English placed first in Class 4, and math and science both placed eighth.

Dyer and Helton were at the table for all 25 questions in the English round, and they were joined by Abbott for the first 12, and then Brown subbed in for the final 13.

At the switch, Immanuel had answered all 12 questions correctly.

“We were ecstatic,” Dyer said. “It felt amazing because we were up there jittering the entire time. We got down there, we got through it and we were like, ‘Oh, OK, it’s easy. We’ve got this.’”

Abbott said he was pleasantly surprised by the strong start.

“Because last year, most of the questions were questions that we didn’t really reflect on, and so I went into that (this year) expecting it, and then once we started doing very well, I was like, ‘Oh, OK,’” he said.

At the end of the round, Immanuel missed three questions. For one of them, though, either it had been challenged or a discrepancy was found, and that went in Immanuel’s favor and counted one of the misses correct.

“There was one of them that we weren’t sure about, and it seemed like it could be another thing,” Dyer said. “It was the last ones that we missed, and those are the most difficult.”

The English team had been studying a novel, two short stories and four poems — all written by Canadians — since October.

The novel was “Calvin: A Novel” by Martine Leavitt.

“I had actually intended to go to science (team), but when I heard it was a book about Calvin and Hobbes, I grew up reading those (comic strips). I was excited about that,” Dyer said. “It mentions a lot about the ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ series, but other than that, it was already a good book. It would be a good book without that. It was about schizophrenia. I knew about schizophrenia but not very much. I enjoyed reading about it more.”

The short stories were “The Marine Excursion of the Knights of Pythias” by Stephen Leacock and selections from “Medicine River” by Thomas King.

The poetry included “The Shark” by E.J. Pratt, “The Forsaken” by Duncan Scott Campbell, “This is a Photograph of Me” by Margaret Atwood and “Carrying Someone Else’s Infant Past a Cow in a Field Near Marmora, Ont.” by Ken Babstock.

Franke said all five team members read all of the pieces and worked hard to be ready for the competition.

“I think these kids were so much fun, but then they also absorbed what I said in the regular classroom, so Mrs. Sims and I did not have to teach them what is foreshadowing or what is a theme, what is symbolism because they already knew that from the classroom,” she said.

Dyer and Helton represented the English team on the interdisciplinary squad.

In all, Immanuel had 28 students participating.

“Our squads did really well,” Franke said. “Our whole team, our whole 28, we’re so proud of all of them. I’m blessed with fellow coaches, too.”

When Immanuel started competing in Academic Super Bowl about a dozen years ago, Franke was happy to see fellow teachers step up to coach each subject area.

“The cool thing is Dr. (Todd) Behmlander had said to a few of us teachers ‘Would you be interested in starting an Academic Super Bowl team?’ so I said to the rest of the junior high staff — it’s a pretty small staff — would anyone help me with that. Every single junior high teacher said yes,” she said. “It’s awesome.”

They also are glad to have a high number of students interested because Franke said there were some schools at the area contest not able to field a team for some subjects.

“We have great participation,” she said.