Academic Decathlon Team State Bound

Next week, the Haywood High School Academic Decathlon (AD) team will compete in the state tournament.  Academic Decathlon teams have long been a part of Haywood High School.  From 1985 to 2018, HHS has had an AD team represent the school in local and state competitions.  Since 2018, however, HHS has not competed in any events or had an AD team.  That all changed this year.

Veteran teacher Rachel Savage is the first year coach of the HHS AD team, and they have had great success since returning to competitions.  

“We have 17 students on the team.  We’re one short of having two full teams.  My goal for next year is to have 22 students total,” Rachel said.

The first year of coaching any team, athletic or academic, comes with some wrinkles that need to be ironed out at the beginning.

“The most challenging part has been the logistical part of it – making sure students meet certain deadlines, learning what you can and cannot do, finding time to test students that doesn’t impede other teachers,” Rachel explained.   

Once Rachel got those pesky logistics sorted out, her team was off to the races.  A few weeks ago, they competed in the regional competition and had great success.

“We competed in regionals and did really well.  We had 29 medal placements, 2 overall winners, and one team overall winner.  Two of our teams finished in the top five in the region,” Rachel said.  

Academic decathlon covers a wide range of topics and pushes students to be well-rounded when it comes to academic knowledge.  Not only are academics pushed, but necessary skills like verbal and written communication are tested as well.

“AD is a competition that covers ten subject areas: literature, math, economics, social sciences, science, art, music, an essay category, personal interview, and a speech (prepared and impromptu).  In a non-covid year, AD would have a super quiz – game show style- and get to travel.  Hopefully, next year we can travel and have the full experience,” Rachel explained.

While Haywood High School might be best known for its competition on the state level for football and basketball, the Academic Decathlon team is making its own noise by representing the Tomcats next week.  On February 22-24, AD students will take the state competition tests and then complete the interview portion in the days following.  State results should be released around the first week of March.

The beauty of the Academic Decathlon team is that it is completely voluntary and accepts anyone who wants to be on the team.  

“AD is totally volunteer.  There are some students who I approach about it, and teachers can recommend students, too.  There’s no minimum GPA requirement, so any student can participate if they want to,” Rachel said.

Listed below are the members of the HHS AD team and their individual accolades from the regional competition.


Academic Decathlon Roster:

Ava Adams

Precious Anderson

James Banks

Cameron Barr

Mahek Bhakta

Hailey Cunningham

Rachel Cunningham

Marliss Gray

Nima Hasan

Miller Lea

Zaria Meadows

Christine Michael

Cristhofer Ocegueda-Barrera

Marcela Sanchez

Christopher Sanders

Caleb Snowden

Brianna Tatum


Academic Decathlon Regional Competition Results

Purple Team – overall 3rd place 

White Team – overall 5th place


Individual Awards/Placements

Ava Adams (Scholastic division) –  tied 3rd place in Economics, tied 4th place in Literature, 4th place in Music

 Precious Anderson (Varsity division) – tied 3rd place in Math, tied 2nd place in Music 

 Mahek Bhakta (Scholastic division) – tied 2nd place in Economics, 3rd place in Math 

 Hailey Cunningham (Scholastic division) – overall 5th place, 1st place in Art, tied 2nd place in Economics

 Rachel Cunningham (Scholastic division) – tied 3rd place in Economics, 3rd place in Social Science 

 Miller Lea (Varsity division) – 4th place in Art, tied 4th place in Economics, tied 4th place in Math, tied 1st place in Music

 Zaria Meadows (Varsity division) – tied 3rd place in Math, tied 1st place in Music,  

 Christine Michael (Honors division)– tied 4th place in Art

 Cristhofer Ocegueda – Barrera (Honors division) – 1st place in Music, tied 4th place in Science 

 Marcela Sanchez (Scholastic division) – overall 4th place, 2nd place in Math, 3rd place in Music

 Christopher Sanders (Scholastic division)  – tied 3rd place in Economics, tied 4th place in Math, tied 4th place in Science 

 Caleb Snowden (Scholastic division) – 3rd place in Literature

 Brianna Tatum (Scholastic division) – 2nd place in Art, 4th place in Economics, 2nd place in Music