Trinity Academic Super Bowl teams place second, third at state

Two Trinity Lutheran High School Academic Super Bowl teams made it to the biggest stage this year.

At Saturday’s state finals at Purdue University in West Lafayette, the science and math teams were among the final six in their respective subject left standing in Class 4.

The science team increased its area score by one point in answering 19 of 25 questions correctly. Indianapolis Lutheran, Washington Township and North White also finished with that score, followed by Indiana Academy for Science, Math and Humanities with 18 and Fountain Central with 16.

It all came down to tiebreakers. Indianapolis Lutheran wound up taking the state title by answering the final five questions right, and Trinity was runner-up with four of those right and won the second tiebreaker by getting the last three questions right compared to two for Washington Township.

The math round wasn’t as dramatic. Indiana Academy for Science, Math and Humanities won with 19, Indianapolis Lutheran was second with 16 and Trinity was third with 15, which was equal to its area score. La Lumiere with 14, Fountain Central with 11 and Riverton Parke with six rounded out the Class 4 scores.

Trinity science coach Sarah Akey said her three team members — juniors Bradley Dyer and Benjamin Neawedde and sophomore Sophia Seo — worked together really well and communicated well.

“I think we had some nerves toward the beginning. In the first 12 questions, we scored eight correct, but in the last 13, we scored 11,” Akey said. “I’m so proud that they stuck with it. Our placement all came down to how they finished. One question in the back half unnerved most teams. Nearly every team got it wrong, and even today, I’m still not sure why the answer was what it was. But even then, when they felt like the floor had come out beneath them, they showed their grit and finished so strongly.”

Neawedde was the captain and focused on the physics questions, Dyer was the biology specialist and Seo was the chemistry specialist. This was the second year in a row for Neawedde and Dyer to be part of the state-qualifying science team.

“To do well in Academic Super Bowl requires an immense amount of internal motivation,” Akey said. “Yes, winning plaques and medals feels amazing, but at their core, each of the science students simply loves to learn and know. They possess an inherent curiosity for how the natural world operates. As a teacher, you can’t teach that. You simply model and encourage it.”

From their drive to learn, Akey said the students practiced multiple times a week and studied during their free time.

“Last week, Sophia finished her in-class chemistry test early so that we could try to figure out spherical triangle problems together for the math contest,” Akey said. “There’s no better satisfaction for a teacher than to watch students love to learn.”

Last year, Akey was unable to attend the state finals because she was at her Ph.D. graduation, so she said she was thrilled to be there this year to see the fruits of their hard work.

“I was so proud of them the entire event. They walked around with humble confidence. They knew they had studied hard, and they were showing everyone what they knew,” she said.

“I love that the event takes place at Purdue University,” she added. “These students start to see their future as scholars when they walk around a beautiful campus like Purdue. They start to believe that they have so much to contribute intellectually to the world, and they do. As a coach, it’s inspiring to see them start to realize that.”

As soon as the contest ended Saturday, Akey said the three students had their eyes on taking the state title next year.

“We will certainly work to that end,” she said.

For the math round, Trinity had the team captain, Seo, and junior Trenton Burton at the table the whole time. Junior Allison Ward joined them for the first 12 questions, and senior Kathryn Whitmore subbed in for the final 13.

Coach Jackie Stuckwisch said they missed the first question but got their feet under them and jockeyed for a top-three position the rest of the way.

“At one point early in the competition, we were in first place but missed a few ‘jump shots’ and couldn’t regain the lead,” she said.

“I think everyone enjoyed the opportunity to compete at Purdue and experience the result of working hard, regardless of the outcome,” she said. “If they were nervous, I could not tell. I was a bit nervous because you always want the best outcome for the sake of the students. So placing third in the state is a job well done.”

Seo was the team captain. Stuckwisch said she joined the team a few weeks after they started to practice and was instrumental in their success.

“Her enthusiasm for learning and competing runs parallel to the outcome,” Stuckwisch said. “She would spend hours practicing and asking questions. Once, she even set an alarm for 3 in the morning to wake up and practice more problems.”

Freshmen Landon Gasaway and Alex Overgaard also were on the math team, and Stuckwisch said all of the students were a real joy to work with this season.

“It is not always easy to get to school early to learn and practice math topics, but they did and were fortunate to make the trip to Purdue for the state competition,” she said. “I am super proud of everyone on the team for their commitment to studying and attending practices and competitions.”

Academic Super Bowl is an Indiana Association of School Principals contest that was 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 This year’s theme was “The Age of Exploration: 1400-1650.”

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.