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Woodbury Middle School eighth graders, from left to right, Sean Addington, Akul Seshadri, Peter Blanchfield, Hugh Riley and Hughdan Liu, took first place in the Academic Triathlon state meet in the Cross-Trianer division. (Submitted photo)

Woodbury's academic all-stars

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Woodbury's academic all-stars
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Woodbury students have proved their academic achievement.

Three Woodbury schools – Woodbury Middle School, Lake Middle School and Math and science Academy – have taken first place in their respective divisions in the state Academic Triathlon meet.


The state meet was held March 22 at Cottage Grove Middle School.

“The wins are all on (the students’) own merit,” said Katie Merry, the Gateway teacher at WMS. “It’s all the parents who get involved and who support the kids and keep them going.

“The students put in the time to practice and it shows.”

Academic Triathlon

Academic Triathlon is an extracurricular activity for students in grades 5-8, which has team members competing in three events at each meet – Face-Off, Mind Sprints and Party in a Box.

In Face-Off, students compete in a quiz bowl-style competition where they answer trivia questions on a variety of different subjects.

“It’s hard to prepare because you never know what it’s going to be,” said LMS sixth grader Sam Poor.

Mind Sprints calls for more creative short answers.

“As the name suggests, you are supposed to think of many ideas very quickly,” said WMS eighth grader Hughdan Liu.

“They’re pretty much things that make you think creatively,” said WMS eighth grader Akul Seshadri.

The final component of Academic Triathlon is Party in a Box, where each team develops scenery, costumes, and a skit from a scenario and junk materials they find in their box.

The Academic Triathlon season is split up into five meets – three regular season meets, one regional meet and the state meet.

Cross Trainer

The Cross Trainer division of Academic Triathlon is reserved for students in grades 7 and 8.

The WMS team – made up of Liu, Seshadri, eighth grader Hugh Riley, eighth grader Sean Addington and eighth grader Peter Blanchfield – faced off against eight other teams during the state meet, including another team from WMS, which took fourth place, and a team from Lake Middle School that took fifth place.

Preparing for Academic Triathlon can be challenging, Riley said, because teams are not given any indication of what the Face-Off or Mind Sprints questions will be.

“The only thing you can really practice is (Party in a Box) because you can get the process down,” he said. “Mind Sprints is random, Face-Off is random, but with (Party in a Box) you can get strategy.”

Since preparation isn’t necessarily something that can help teams win, Seshadri said the WMS team relied on having team members with different strengths.

“This year we tried to focus on having different people who were good at different things so that we could have all of the areas covered,” he said. “The person that was the leader in each area kind of had the final say of what happens.”

Since this is their last chance to compete, Addington said he was excited with the result.

“It’s really nice to go out on a high note,” he said.

“We definitely had a strong finish,” said Elisa Cross, the team’s coach.

Challenger divison

The other division in Academic Triathlon is the Challenger division, which is for students in grades 5 and 6.

Since the Challenger division includes the most teams, it is split into two separate groups – nine teams each – which is how both LMS and MSA walked away with the title.

The LMS team, which competed in the Green meet, includes sixth graders Poor, Ethan Ko, Caden Clausen, William Johnston and David Henry.

Two WMS teams also competed in the Green meet, where they took sixth and seventh place, as well as a team from St. Ambrose of Woodbury Catholic School, which took third.

The MSA team, which competed in the Peach meet, includes: sixth graders Dipali Arora, Archit Das, Thomas Nelson, Manashree Padiyath and Samuel Padmanabha.

The Green meet also included a team from WMS, which took third, and a team from St. Ambrose of Woodbury Catholic School that took eighth.

The LMS team said they were surprised when they learned that they had won first place.

“We didn’t think we were going to win,” Johnston said. “We weren’t sure if we did quite enough to win.”

When it comes to preparing, Johnston said the team doesn’t like to take it too seriously.

“We try to keep it loose so it doesn’t get too serious,” he said. “We’ve done considerably worse when we’re so serious and intense.”

Poor said he believes the team’s strength is Party in a Box because they like to make it as funny as possible.

MSA team members, who remained undefeated the entire Academic Triathlon season, said they really enjoy the variety of Academic Triathlon.

“I like that it’s very diverse in what we do,” Padiyath said.

“It encompasses all subjects,” Padmanabha said. “You don’t train in any specific subject, so anyone can succeed.”

Like the other teams, Padmanabha and Arora said the MSA team’s individual strengths aided them in winning the meet.

“I think we’re the perfect team,” Arora said.

All three Woodbury teams said Academic Triathlon is a fun activity to participate in, even if it doesn’t sound like it.

“What I like about Academic Triathlon, even though the name doesn’t suggest this, is that it’s not that nerdy,” Said Seshadri, of WMS.

“I like that you get to express all your knowledge,” said Clausen, of LMS.

Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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