Catholic school students excel in Scholastic Olympics

By Christina Leslie | Trenton Monitor Staff Writer

The cheers emanating from Donovan Catholic High School March 15 let all passersby know a fierce competition was being waged on the Toms River battlefield. The worthy seventh-grade competitors wielded No. 2 pencils as their weapons of choice and sought medals as their bounty. When the dust settled and the juice boxes were empty, one school reigned supreme.

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St. Joseph School, Toms River, was the triumphant victor in the 23rd annual Donovan Catholic Scholastic Olympics, a contest which highlights academic achievements at the seventh grade level. The Catholic school garnered five gold, one silver and two bronze individual medals in six subject areas, clinched first in both their division and overall in the 14-school field of Catholic, public and private schools.

St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach, placed second overall in the competition, topping their division and earning two gold, five silver and two bronze medals. St. Dominic School, Brick, students also earned a number of individual honors including three gold, three silver and one bronze medal for their academic prowess.

During the contest, schools were grouped into three divisions depending upon their seventh grade enrollment; each division-winning school received a trophy and was ranked for top overall honors based upon points for medal winners and combined test scores. Individual students who earned medals in the eight subject areas of art, English, history, mathematics, music, science, spelling and technology received medals and financial scholarship letters for future enrollment in Donovan Catholic.

Students were led to subject area tests in classrooms throughout the building, then reassembled with their teachers, principals, parents and guests back in the Donovan Catholic cafeteria to await the results. As the high school’s staff and faculty tabulated the test scores, the seventh graders worriedly quizzed one another on their answers or confidently gave high fives to their schoolmates.

Elizabeth O’Connor, principal of St. Aloysius School, Jackson, had attended the competition many times, but this year marked her first as advisor to the team. She reflected upon the competition as she awaited the announcement of the victors.

“Well, we always say ‘Catholic schools have it all,’” O’Connor said smiling, quoting the Diocese’s slogan for the depth and diversity of the Catholic school experience. “Competitions like this help kids shine in lots of ways.”

Tonya Muller, a seventh grade history and mathematics teacher in All Saints Regional Catholic School, Manahawkin, sat near the front of the cafeteria with her students. “We start preparing them in November,” she noted. “We ask the kids who took the tests last year for guidance on which questions to study. This [competition] is great for kids who are not into sports. They can get a chance to shine.”

Donovan Catholic vice principal, Kathleen D’Andrea, read the names of the winning individuals and schools as the sound of cheers and shrieks echoed throughout the school. Scholastic Olympics coordinator, Danielle Boyd, and principal, Dr. Edward Gere, hung the gold, silver and bronze medals around the necks of the thrilled winners and gave them the trophies destined for the schools’ display cases.

At the conclusion of the competition, overall victor St. Joseph School teacher-advisors Katharine Bigg, William Dudley and Kelly Knoll beamed as their excited students milled around them, but even their smiles were dwarfed by that of Michele Williams, principal in the Toms River Catholic grammar school. As she surveyed the victors, Williams noted the students’ accomplishments in the core subjects would help them in the future.

“We are preparing students for careers which didn’t even exist year ago,” she observed. “We stress STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in our curriculum. That’s where they’ll have to compete in the work force.”

The Catholic schools and student winners were:

St. Joseph School, Toms River
First in division 2, first overall
Individual medals: Jackson Hefferon (gold, science); Mackenzie O’Connor (gold, math); William Schwester (gold, history); Casey Cunningham (gold, English); Hannah Brauerman (gold, spelling); Christina Pasqua (silver, art); Katerina Rigas (bronze, math); Jessica Alturk (bronze, art)

St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach
First in division 1, second overall
Individual medals: Blake Serafina (gold, science); Ava Carabetta (gold, art); Dylan Brown (silver, math); Erin Bracken (silver, English); Kieran Desch (silver, history); Pietro Senerchia (silver, technology); Nicole Jimenez (silver, music); Cooper Hargis (bronze, history); Eloise Earle (bronze, art)

St. Dominic School, Brick
Individual medals: Sofia Cucuzza (gold, art); Kaitlyn Trageser (gold, technology); Katerina Chafart (gold, music); Krystina Ciesielski (silver, technology); Ethan Middleton (silver, spelling); Nathan Quintanilla (silver, music); Sianna Bradley (bronze, science)

All Saints Regional Catholic School, Manahawkin
Individual medals: Sam Morabite (silver, science); Cecilia Geiger (silver, English); Emma Vidal (bronze, history), Madelyn Balko (bronze, music)

St. Veronica School, Howell
Individual medal: Eva Burns (gold, music)

St. Aloysius School, Jackson
Individual medal: Jacob Canderozzi (bronze, spelling)

Best of the Best • St. Joseph School students react as they learn they took overall honors in the 23rd annual Scholastic Olympics March 15 in Donovan Catholic High School. In addition to topping the 14-competitor field, the Toms River seventh graders earned five gold, one silver and two bronze individual medals in six subject areas. John Blaine photo

Best of the Best • St. Joseph School students react as they learn they took overall honors in the 23rd annual Scholastic Olympics March 15 in Donovan Catholic High School. In addition to topping the 14-competitor field, the Toms River seventh graders earned five gold, one silver and two bronze individual medals in six subject areas. John Blaine photo

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