Studying his way to success

Senior Theo Danial won first place out of 450 decathletes at the Regional Academic Decathlon competition.



Studying can be both intense and time consuming. Many students come to dread it, while others like it. However, a select group of students not only study for their academic classes, but for fun as part of an extracurricular program at schoolacademic decathlon. 

Senior Theo Danial has been a part of academic decathlon since his freshman year and is currently the captain of the A Team. 

“I was looking for a fun, competitive and academic environment where I could meet new people because I was coming from out of district [my freshman year],” Danial said. 

His experience with academic decathlon throughout the years has been “tumultuous,” due to the pandemic. According to Danial, his sophomore and junior years looked a lot different from the “utopia of [his] freshman academic experience.”

“But it’s been really rewarding to power through and continue learning all of the interesting curriculum that’s been provided to us,” Danial said.

This year, the academic decathlon team competed in regionals. According to Laxmi Upadhyaya, co-captain of the team, Danial’s performance was “insane.” 

“Out of 450 decathletes, he got the highest score, which is unbelievable. [Danial’s] extremely smart, but everyone in academic decathlon is also at that caliber, and he beat them all,” Upadhyaya said.

The competition consists of 10 events; seven multiple choice tests, a timed essay, an interview and preparation and delivery of a speech. Out of a total of 10,000 points, Danial scored 8765, according to Upadhyaya. 

“The team score depends on everyone in the team,” Danial said. “I was merely one part of our win, and everyone did a phenomenal job. It was great to be able to contribute to [the success of] such hard working students.”

According to Danial, academic decathlon isn’t as intimidating as it seems; despite the large curriculum, he says that it is “really fun” and a “lighthearted experience.” 

Upadhyaya said that while academic decathlon is a competition, it’s important not only to have a competitive spirit, but also to love learning.

“It can be stressful to make sure everyone is doing their work, since most of it is done at home,” Danial said. “Even for me, it’s hard to put aside time to study. It’s been a challenge, but also a reward to come up with fun ways to motivate studying and get information into people’s heads.”

Upadhyaya said that Danial is diligent in ensuring that everyone stays engaged. 

“During group reviews, he always makes sure that everyone says something. He pushes us to be involved. But he does it in such a kind manner that it never feels like you’re being forced [to study]. And he has such a good spirit, constantly. I’ve never seen him unwilling to lead. It’s extremely inspiring. I know that this year, as captain, he’s working so hard, and that makes me want to work hard too,” Upadhyaya said.

Danial said that as leader, he finds it important to check on the decathletes outside the classroom as well. He says that making sure that they’re “mentally well” is key, as many of the decathletes are upperclassmen and academic decathlon, along with their regular coursework, can be “really overwhelming.”

“AcaDec has helped me become a more well-rounded person,” Danial said. “Now, when my parents take me out to museums, sometimes I’ll recognize a piece from what we’ve seen while studying. I know more about what’s going on in the world. It’s very rewarding to have the sense that what we do is about more than just academics.”

Upadhyaya has known Danial since their freshman year, and said that he is “the smartest person that [she] will ever meet.”

“A lot of the other top scorersthe ones in second and third placewhenever they got up to get their medals, they would flex, which is valid with the amount of work that gets put into [competitions.] But Theo didn’t ever flex. He has won so many timeshe won first place. But he just got up, took his medal and his picture, and left,” said Upadhyaya. “He’s never said that he was better than anybody else because of his intellect. If I were to characterize him, I’d say his intelligence comes second and his ability to be a good human being comes first.”