Trinity Lutheran High School has developed a tradition of excellence with Academic Super Bowl.
Through this Indiana Association of School Principals 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, according to iasp.org.
There are two levels of competition: Junior (grades 6 to 8) and senior (grades 9 to 12). Subject area rounds include English, math, science, social studies and interdisciplinary. Fine arts also is included in the senior division.
Trinity has been involved with Academic Super Bowl for six years and won state titles with interdisciplinary in 2016, 2018 and 2019 and English in 2017. Last year, the Seymour school had a science team compete at the state finals.
For this year’s state finals, set to start at 10 a.m. Saturday at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Trinity will be represented in science and math.
At the area competition April 18 at Austin High School, the science team correctly answered 18 out of 25 questions, and the math team scored 15.
When the results were tabulated from area contests around the state, both teams wound up in the top six in Class 4 to advance to state.
In science, Indianapolis Lutheran scored 21, Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities scored 19 and Trinity, Washington Township, Fountain Central and North White all tallied 18.
For math, Indianapolis Lutheran and Monroe Central led with 18 apiece, Trinity and Fountain Central were next with 15 each, Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics and Humanities had 14 and Riverton Parke had 13.
Overall, there were 65 science teams and 66 math teams in Class 4.
Trinity coach Sarah Akey said her three science team members, juniors Bradley Dyer and Benjamin Neawedde and sophomore Sophia Seo, started out very strong and finished even stronger.
“Their first 12, they definitely were getting lots right but then were missing here and there,” Akey said. “Then when it got to the back half of the questions in the final 13, they got the last seven all correct, which is helpful in splitting ties. If there are any ties, they look at the final five questions.”
The last question was particularly memorable for Seo. Trinity didn’t compete in any invitationals this year, but Akey said the questions from those could be viewed online, and her team practiced those.
“At one of the invitationals, a chemistry question that Sophia and I were working on, we kept getting the wrong answer, but we were very confident we were doing it correctly,” Akey said. “I emailed the question writer to try to get some guidance, ‘Hey, what are we missing here? Can you provide anything for us?’ and never got a response, which I thought was odd.”
It turns out the final science question at the area competition was that same question, just a number was changed.
“We got it right at the area competition, and I think (the question writer) probably didn’t respond to us because she didn’t want to give away too much,” Akey said. “That one I know Sophia felt very confident because she had seen it, we had talked about it a lot, we knew it.”
After the first 12 questions of each round, teams can make substitutions for the final 13. With only three team members, Trinity’s science squad had to remain at the table the whole time.
While this is Seo’s first year of Academic Super Bowl, Neawedde and Dyer both were on the team that went to state last year.
“We definitely felt a bit of a boost at the end, got a little streak starting. We came in clutch in the end,” Dyer said.
This year’s theme for the competition is “The Age of Exploration: 1400-1650.” Science has three elements: Biology, chemistry and physics. Trinity decided to break them up based on individual strengths: Biology for Dyer, physics for Neawedde and chemistry for Seo.
One of the biology elements based on the theme is the history of animals, and fortunately, Dyer said that’s something he learned last school year in biology. Another element is the history of various biologists and what they contributed to the field, and he said he’s pretty good with history, so that’s a plus.
“It helps to divvy up some of the work to make it easier instead of having to learn everything,” he said. “You can just focus on one thing, thus you can be better at that one thing. I feel we work better as a team.”
Neawedde is taking physics this school year, so that’s why he chose that area of focus.
“The math problems that we do are similar to what we did in physics class, so I’ve already seen them before, so I know the process, which is helpful once you get up there,” he said.
“He’s also very proficient in trigonometry, which is a big part of the physics section for our competition,” Akey added. “The combination of his math classes, plus the physics that he’s in, he’s very quick on those trig questions, which is very helpful.”
Seo said chemistry is her favorite of the three sciences, and math is her favorite class, so that helps since she’s also a member of that team.
At the area competition, Seo and junior Trenton Burton were at the table during the whole math round, while junior Allison Ward joined them for the first 12 questions, and senior Kathryn Whitmore was swapped in for the final 13.
Coach Jackie Stuckwisch said the team got the first six questions right and then hit a bump.
“I think a lot of teams felt like the math was a little bit harder this year than previous years,” she said. “I was looking at all of the class levels, the highest in our class for math score was an 18, but then the highest out of any of the classes was a 23. Nobody got a perfect score for math. I felt like a couple that we missed we could’ve gotten right, so we’ve been practicing these two weeks to get strong at it.”
Whitmore said through process of elimination, they guessed on a couple of the questions later in the round and fortunately got them right.
Stuckwisch said some members of the team have the gift of memorizing the formulas, so they wrote those down as soon as they got to the table at the area competition to use when needed.
“We just all work together,” she said.
Other members of the math team are freshmen Landon Gasaway and Alex Overgaard.
Now with their eyes on the state finals, the Trinity students and coaches are focused on the big stage.
“With the competition, we now know that there were a few things that we had known before that wasn’t researched, so we’ve been studying that now. I’m looking forward to going in now with a bit more expanded knowledge,” Dyer said.
“We have the experience of having been there, so now, we know more what to expect,” Neawedde said.
Seo said she’s just happy to go to state, and Whitmore said it’s a new thing, so it will be a fun experience.
“These guys have put in tons and tons of work,” Akey said. “Here in Indiana, we focus a lot on sports, and rightly so. They are fun. A lot of students really excel in them. But this is a chance for us to really focus on academics and how hard these students have been working. I’m just happy that they will get a moment that’s theirs to really show people what they know.”
Compared to sports, Stuckwisch said Academic Super Bowl is an exercise of the mind instead of exercise of the physical body.
“They do put in a lot of hours, especially if they are doing more than one content area,” she said. “They do a good job, and they are a lot of fun to have.”