VALPARAISO | Japanese language students from three local high schools distinguished themselves Saturday afternoon at the Japanese Olympiad of Indiana at Valparaiso University.
A team from Chesterton High School won first place, and a Michigan City High School team captured second place in the fourth-year student competition. At the third-year level, Chesterton took second place, while Valparaiso High School earned second place in the second-year contest.
Students from 14 Indiana high schools participated in the 10th annual competition, which included language, history and culture drills. Throughout the day, students participated in cultural activities that included origami, calligraphy and mask making to celebrate setsubun, a February holiday that marks the coming of spring.
Steve and Michelle Lill, of Valparaiso, came to support their daughter Brenna, a sophomore on the Valparaiso High School second-year team.
"I hate to brag, but she's good at everything," Steve Lill said. "She really enjoys language."
The Lills' other daughter Jordan is a business major at Purdue University North Central and the assistant coach of the Valparaiso team.
"They're excited to work together," Michelle Lill said.
Team captain Brett Odle, also a sophomore, said he is enamored of the Japanese language and culture.
"I started with watching anime," Odle said of the Japanese style of animation. "The language sounded so cool to me. I started learning about the culture, too."
Brenna Lill, who also studies French, and teammate Jonah Simon said they will add Spanish to their studies next year.
"I got hooked," Simon said. "I don't think I can stop."