By Valeri Guevarra, Editor in Chief (‘22)

The world has been turned upside down because of the pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped one Indian Hills club from continuing to achieve success from years prior. After a successful regional and state competition, the Indian Hills Academic Decathlon team placed 2nd in the state and is headed off to the virtual national competition. 

Academic Decathlon, ACDEC for short, is an after-school club here at Indian Hills that meets between 1-4 times a week studying and preparing for academic-based competition on the local, state, and national level. Advised by Mr. Paravati, the club is the “Nerd Olympics” (Captain Lydia Park’s words, not mine). The team meets every week to study art, science, social science, music, economics, literature, and math, all based around the central theme of the year: 2020-2021’s theme was The Cold War. The after-school meetings mainly consist of studying the subjects through presentations and activities. The club may initially seem intimidating as it looks like an extra thing to study for and memorize, but many members reveal that club is much more fun than some may believe. Regionals and states alternate Zoe Jacobs says that ACDEC “could be a very stressful club [because] it’s a lot of studying, a lot of preparing, and a lot of memorizing large amounts of information, but the great thing about it is that the people and the coach make it a really fun amazing experience.” 

Due to the pandemic, IHHS ACDEC only meets virtually over ZOOM and misses out on some iconic activities within the club, including pizza parties during ACDEC study days in the Media Center and a pleasant environment created by the physical presence of the whole team. Adding an extra two hours of ZOOM, sometimes every day and on weekends, is not easy on the club’s members, but that hasn’t stopped them from continuing their success from previous years. After a successful first-place team finish at regionals, the team qualified for the state competition, held virtually on February 27, and placed 2nd overall in NJ! The 2021 IHHS ACDEC States team comprised Lydia Park, Cora Mayer-Costa, Ulysses Bergel, Renee Callari, Julianna Zelnefer, Grace Romitelli, Aly McCormick, and Joseph Park: all as team starters. The alternate team at states representing IHHS included Sam Eliert, Zoe Jacobs, Alexandra Mazur, Andrew Simmers, Natalie Ambrose, Sofia Wuensch, and Elizabeth Weiner. Some individual highlights include multiple gold medals for starters Lydia, Julianna, and Joseph and alternates Zoe, Alexandra, and Andrew. Captain Lydia Park was also the highest scoring student in the Honors division of the state while also receiving the Reinauer Scholarship, awarded to the student with the highest math and science scores in the state. ACDEC success runs in the family as brother Joseph Park was the second highest-scoring student in the state’s Varsity Division. Finally, females thrive in ACDEC as junior Julianna Zelnhefer was the third-highest scoring student in the Scholastic Division in the state. 

While the IHHS team saw lots of success, the competitions did not go without hiccups, specifically at the regionals level. Starter at both regionals and states, Julianna Zelnhefer notes that “The competition itself was a little rocky for regionals because of ZOOM. The ZOOM was glitching and crashing because of all the participants, but the states were really well put together.”

The team is currently preparing for the upcoming virtual nationals competition, and the future looks bright because of the team’s continued hard work and perseverance through these uncertain times. When asked about the future of IHHS ACDEC, senior Lydia Park connects back to the club’s fun and friendly environment. She says, “Of course, I want our team to continue carrying on the Hills legacy and be hardworking enough to reach nationals from year to year. But more than that, I hope that more people know how fun ACDEC can truly be, and make a lot of friends here, as I have.” 

Next year, Julianna Zelnhefer hopes that “more people join ACDEC in the future. It’s a lot more fun than what people might think. We make a lot of jokes during meetings, which makes learning about the topics ten times more fun. […] What’s so unique about ACDEC is that it’s super interactive when you are reading the resource guides with other members, and everyone there is super nice and kind. It’s a very chill environment compared to what others might believe.”

The virtual national competition starts on April 29, and no doubt, if the IHHS team continues to work hard and preserve through the challenges they are faced with, success is in store on the national stage.