LCWM students take home gold in national academic decathlon competition

May 11—LAKE CRYSTAL — When Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial senior Gabe Kietzer's name wasn't called out for silver for the interview category at the national academic decathlon competition, he said he remembered looking across the stage at his coach and smiling because he knew it meant he got gold.

It's a moment he describes as "pure joy and surprise."

"That's something every decathlon member dreams of," he said.

Kietzer is one of two LCWM students to take home gold in categories at the competition, held at the end of April in Frisco, Texas. Christian Fells took home the other gold medal for the school in the math category.

But before they get to this point, there's a lot of preparing to do.

To get to the national competition, teams have to advance out of the regional competition first.

Then, at the state competition, the champion automatically qualifies, but a wild card team can also qualify, known as a Division Four team.

LCWM was that team in Minnesota; there were 28 teams in Division Four this year at nationals.

Academic decathlon students compete in 10 subcategories revolving around a central topic they get at the beginning of summer.

This year's topic was the American Revolution; the subcategories include social science, science, economics, mathematics, art, music, essay, speech interview and literature.

While students compete in all categories, Kietzer said he felt most confident in the interview category.

"I told my team members, 'If there's anything I medal in tomorrow, it's going to be the interview category.' Sure enough, that was what had happened," he said.

It was no easy feat either.

Unlike the other subjects, competing in the interview category works slightly differently. Students are scored on a rubric out of 1,000 points that can be earned from eye contact, confidence in answers, how well answers are thought out and how clearly the competitor speaks.

Kietzer took home gold by scoring 980 points. He said it was his work experience that helped him win over the judges.

"You don't know what questions they're going to ask you going into it. You sort of have to be kind of socially aware and have the ability to converse with people in a professional manner. So for somebody like myself, I've had a bunch of different experiences in the work field," he said.

"I've done a variety of jobs that have helped me to do well with interacting with people. I think my experiences like that are just like, the more you can get out and interact with people, the easier it is for you to make conversation."

Coach Billy James said he was still taking in Fells' victory when teammate Kietzer's name was announced.

James said his students' names will now have a permanent spot on his classroom wall, where he celebrates all of his students' success.

"I have all the team photos up on my wall from (my 26 years here). Across from that we have photos of all the national medalists that we've had over the years since I've been coaching," he said.

"We've actually had 11 total national medalists from all the years I've been here. With these two we got the 12th and 13th, so we get to add their photos and their names."