HNHS Academic Super Bowl team scoring with and beating ‘big boys’

Intently focused on a question projected on a screen, Huntington North High School Academic Super Bowl team members (from left) Bethany Williams, Emma Gordon, Charles Grey, Audrey Marjamaa and Zach Lippe get ready to write the answer down before the time limit expires during a practice session on Feb. 29. The team went on to place in the social studies, math and English sections of the multi-school competition held on March 2.
Intently focused on a question projected on a screen, Huntington North High School Academic Super Bowl team members (from left) Bethany Williams, Emma Gordon, Charles Grey, Audrey Marjamaa and Zach Lippe get ready to write the answer down before the time limit expires during a practice session on Feb. 29. The team went on to place in the social studies, math and English sections of the multi-school competition held on March 2. Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published March 10, 2016.

It was a proud, proud teacher who boasted the scores of Huntington North High School’s fledgling Academic Super Bowl teams, fresh from their competition on March 2 at South Side High School. For science teacher and co-sponsor Andrew Villanueva, it was also sweet vindication.

“You don’t necessarily think about Huntington North being highly academic,” he says. “We don’t know that we’re good at these things until we go do them.”

The English team, composed of captain Bethany Williams, Gillian Hughes, Brandon Kratz and Holly Pharoah, snagged the championship in the English division, besting a dozen other schools in the contest.

The math team of captain Jacob Allred, Jake Garlits, Charles Grey, Zach Lippe and Audrey Marjamaa finished in second place in the math division.

The social studies team of captain Andrew Freck, Robert Borland, Kevin King, Jarod Lewis and Tyler Stroud took third place in their division.

Each of the teams received ribbons for its placement.

The science team had the second highest score of its division, but due to tiebreaker rules they ended up in fourth place.

“It was great to see our students go head to head against these other schools and perform so well,” Villanueva says. “We hope to improve on these efforts for the Leo Regional competition in April.”

About 30 young men and women participate in Academic Super Bowl at the high school, with three or four students on a particular subject team. They have been meeting every Wednesday since December, Villanueva explains, to go over practice questions and knock out answers on multiple subjects before the prescribed time limit is up.

“The kids who have been coming, I’ve seen their commitment level,” he adds. “It’s just been a real gift to get to work with these individuals … We want to see how we stack up against everyone else and we want to show that we have exceptional students who are committed to academic excellence.”

This is only the second year that the team has been in existence. Villanueva says the program exists at HNHS because of one student, Jacob Allred.

“Last year he decided he wanted it to happen to our school,” Villanueva explains. “He went to a different teacher last year and said, ‘Hey, I think we should do this. Would you help?’”

The teacher said yes, and after spending the first year learning the rules and ropes of the Indiana Academic Super Bowl competition, this year the team is eager to display its prowess in the heat of competitive battle. The goal: to make it to state competition, held at Purdue University in May.

The 2016 theme of the Academic Super Bowl is “Hoosier Heritage,” focusing on questions that tie in with Indiana’s 200th anniversary. Questions in all six disciplines — math, science, English, social studies, fine arts and interdisciplinary — will have Indiana connections.

“They read Kurt Vonnegut stories, they listen to Hoagy Carmichael, they listen to Cole Porter. They look at paintings by Hoosier artists,” Villanueva says.

Teams receive outlines with topics they should learn about in order to correctly answer the questions they may be posed during competition. Math questions must be answered in 40 seconds; only 20 seconds are allowed for other disciplines.

Allred says he wanted a venue to demonstrate what he has learned in his educational career so far.

“In eighth grade I was on the Academic Super Bowl team at Riverview. I really enjoyed that and I was captain on the math team then. I came to the high school, and was kind of disappointed that there wasn’t an academic team competition,” he recalls. “I think it’s fun to use the skills that you’ve learned in class to compete against other schools to see how strong you are compared to them.”

Allred is now captain of the math and interdisciplinary teams and is an alternate on the science team. He has discovered that while HNHS may not be ranked at the very top, with preparation and hard work the goal is still within reach.

“We’re better than a lot of schools, but we’re not like the very top, cream-of-the-crop first place every year,” he says. “Last year, since we put it (the team) together so fast it was hard for us to prepare for it. So like, the other teams had a lot of time to prepare, so we really didn’t have that much time to prepare, so we didn’t get first or anything, but we did fairly well for the time that we had to prepare … It’s my senior year, so I hope it goes really well.”

Another student, junior Bethany Williams, is on the English and fine arts teams. She also hopes the team’s hard work will pay off in a berth on the state competition. But it’s the camaraderie that she enjoys the most.

“I really enjoy learning things,” she says. “I’m not really much of a competitive person, but I get to be with people who enjoy learning like I do, and it’s just a fun experience.”

The Indiana Academic Super Bowl is sponsored by the Indiana Association of School Principals. Regional competition will take place April 19 at Leo Junior-Senior High School, in Leo. More information can be found online at www.iasp.org/dsp/academic/super.