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South Jordan Journal

Team approach brings sixth state title to Bingham academic decathletes

Aug 01, 2019 10:20AM ● By Julie Slama

Pictured here at regionals, Bingham High Academic Decathlon team won its sixth state title and earned medals at nationals. (Photo courtesy of James Barton)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Five national medals recently were added to the six-time state champion Bingham High academic decathlon team.

At nationals, the decathletes scored one gold medal, three silver medals and a bronze medal.

“It’s fun to watch them compete,” coach James Barton said after returning from the contest in Minnesota. “These are heard-working students. It’s a total team effort.”

Leading the way was senior Allison Argueta, who won gold and a bronze. Senior Joe Dodge, senior Hridhay Suresh and junior Ashlyn Bolinder brought home silver. Other national teammates include seniors Mahonri White, Isaac Cutler and Penisoni (Ben) Havili, and juniors Emily Hepworth and Jonathan Hong.

Overall, the team finished 16th out of 72 teams nationwide, or seventh in the division 1 (large school) bracket. 

At state this past March, Bingham squeaked by to beat Lone Peak by 15 points and win its sixth state championship ahead of 16 other teams.

“When you realize one question is worth 20 points, it gives you a good idea how close it was,” Barton said. “We were crossing our fingers and holding our breath for the results. We had some good individual performances; our experienced students helped younger students, so we did well overall. We brought home almost one-third of the medals.” 

Barton said that this year’s team members understood how they needed to be successful.

“They developed leadership and confidence how they could score higher,” he said. “They realized if they worked together, helping their teammates, then everyone would score more points than if those who excel would just win on their own. Together, they all created a work ethic I haven’t seen before and took our team to new levels of success.”

Although competitions and after-school practices are held during the school year, the academic decathlon team is much like other sports and clubs, continuously striving to improve. This summer, returning students could review materials before they return to school to look for new members in August and September. Barton and assistant coach Cheryl Peterson plan to post a 2019–20 team this fall in preparation for regionals in February.

The academic decathlon focuses on a theme each year. There are 10 categories of competition, including science, literature, social science, art, music, economics, mathematics and more. Through competing in the various areas, academic decathlon teammates become stronger, well-rounded students, Barton said.

In each of these areas, students take a 30-minute test. Then, students also need to give a four-minute prepared speech, choose from three prompts to write an essay in 45 minutes and be interviewed by judges. Students on the nine-member team are divided into three divisions: honors, scholastic and varsity, based upon their grade-point averages. 

“These kids are all intelligent, and this gives these students a chance to work hard to be able to redirect themselves and be successful,” Barton said. “This is a team competition. You just can’t do it with your top students. It’s working together, refining skills, giving all our students a chance to do well.”