Payson’S Got Big Brains!

Team scores at Academic Decathlon

Trey Butler scrunching up his face during Super Quiz.

Photo by Michele Nelson. |

Trey Butler scrunching up his face during Super Quiz.


Trey Butler walked onto the stage wearing neckties around his head, a black dress shirt and trousers.

He solemnly sat down next to the proctor, picked up his pencil, and earnestly looked up ready to answer questions.

And that was the last serious move he made.

As Kristi Ford, his Academic Decathlon (AcaDec) teacher and emcee of the Payson AcaDec Super Quiz, read off the questions Butler scrunched his face and twisted his mouth into various contortions

tions to entertain his classmates.

Why? Because brains deserve fun at a competition too.

Fun is just what Kristi Ford and her AcaDec group offered students from eight schools this past weekend. They also racked up some serious points. The team placed third among all schools. Team member Brooke Kubby got the highest cumulative score for all schools in the honors group.

“It’s our second year doing this program,” said Ford.

About 40 students from as far away as Kingman spread out over the Payson High School (PHS) campus to compete in a scrimmage of brainpower.

The AcaDec students took written exams, gave speeches, answered interview questions and competed in a Super Quiz on the stage of the auditorium.

Each section of the competition tested their comprehension of math, science, social studies, economics, language and literature.

Each year, the Academic Decathlon organization picks a theme for the students to study.

This 2012-13 academic year the national organization picked Russia for its theme. Across the nation and internationally, students read “Doctor Zhivago,” studied how the space program changed Russia, the country’s economy and philosophy, listened to Russian composers, and analyzed Russian art from Fabergé eggs to icons.

During the Super Quiz, students had to answer questions about economics, political theory, the philosophy of physics, and literary methods.


The 2012-13 AcaDec Team lines up after winning third place at the scrimmage (from left to right): Richele Schultz, Cara Van Zile, (back row) Brooke Kubby, (front row) Trenton Hodges, (back row) Jared Varner, (front row) Trey Butler, Ryland Wala, Zach Harney, Victoria Van Camp, Dawson Beeson, Wesley Goldschmidt, Thomas Chambers.

Answering the first of the many tough questions correctly, Butler grabbed the necktie from his head, swung it around in the air in triumph then replaced the necktie with a furry black Russian hat complete with earflaps. He stared out at the audience with a big grin on his elastic face.

From then on he entertained his fellow AcaDec classmates and the audience with as many facial expressions as the Joker in Batman.

The audience could hardly keep from laughing out loud at each one of his facial contortions.

But that craziness was OK since this scrimmage represents the first competition Payson’s AcaDec team entered for the year. With the home court advantage, the PHS AcaDec kids felt comfortable hamming it up.

Not only were Payson students at ease, some from Snowflake felt comfortable enough to put their hair in curlers during the Super Quiz in preparation for another event the students had after the scrimmage.

The Academic Decathlon is a different sort of scholastic competition. Created in the early 1980s by Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Peterson, the purpose of the program is to challenge students from all levels of academic success.

The varsity group includes students who perform at a “C” level or below. The scholastic group is made up of students who normally get “Bs,” while the honors group is comprised of “A” students.

The three groups compete against each other in the written and oral individual competition, but during the Super Quiz, all the levels sit together to watch each other compete. Generally the coaches/teachers have their weakest students up on the stage first, then move onto the stronger students.

The students have an easy camaraderie born of the sacrifices they make. The AcaDec class meets every day at 7:20 a.m. before the normal school day starts at 8:20.

Students, such as Julia Randall Elementary principal Rob Varner’s son, Jared, participate in multiple extracurricular activities.

Not only does Jared do AcaDec, but he also plays football and plays in the marching band. This year marks the second he has done AcaDec.

When asked why he continues with such a demanding, early morning class, he said, “It’s like joining a cult, and you can’t quit.”

AcaDec Awards:

Rishele Shoults: Honors Group

Silvers in show prep and speech and a Bronze in

overall speech.

Brooke Kubby: Honors Group

Golds for high score overall and language high score. Silvers in overall and science, bronzes in economics, interview, music.

Ryland Wala : Scholastic Group

Silver in interview, Bronzes in interview, math, science, speech.

Trenton Hodges: Scholastic Group

Golds in show imp overall, show imp for group, show prep overall, show prep for group, speech overall, speech for group, essay for group and economics for group. Silvers for math for group, science overall and science for group.

Bronze for economics overall.

Trey Butler: Varsity

Silvers for essay for group and show prep for group. Bronze for economics for group.

Wesly Goldschmidt: Varsity

Silver for art for group.

Jared Varner: Varsity

Silver for language for group.

Jen Bailey: Scholastic

Silver for essay for group.


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