Elite company: Decatur duo named National Merit finalists

Published Wednesday, February 21, 2018
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Madison Kyle and Kirsten Wunrow can quickly trace back the roots of their friendship to the second grade.

DYNAMIC DUO – Decatur seniors Madison Kyle and Kirsten Wunrow were recently named National Merit Scholar finalists. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

“We were the only children in the elementary that both liked reading more than going to recess,” Wunrow. “We loved reading and hated carrots. That was our initial bond.”

Despite Kyle outgrowing her disdain for carrots, the two remained close friends and pushed each other in their studies to not only be top in their class, but also among the brightest in the nation. Wunrow and Kyle were recently notified that they were National Merit Scholar finalists.

They are two of the approximately 15,000 finalists from the initial 1.6 million entrants that took the Preliminary SAT (PSAT). Of the finalists, approximately 7,500 will be selected as Merit Scholarship winners.

The standout math students quickly pointed out that they made it to the top 1 percent.

“It’s the top half of 1 percent,” Kyle said.

“It’s very rewarding. You try so hard academically and it finally shows.”

On the PSAT, Kyle missed only two questions. Wunrow incorrectly answered only one.

“I didn’t convert my miles to kilometers correctly or some-such nonsense,” Wunrow said.

They were notified in September that they were among the 16,000 picked as semifinalists from the 50,000 highest scorers. They knew the odds were in their favor then to make the finals.

“Ninety percent of the semifinalists become finalists,” Wunrow said.

Kyle added: “They send out rejection letters before they send out acceptance letters. So when we didn’t get a rejection letter, we knew.”

Kyle and Wunrow hope that reaching the finals will open up college opportunities for them, especially financially. Along with possible scholarships through the National Merit Scholars program, some college and universities will waive full or partial tuition and fees for Merit Scholars.

Both are still weighing college options. Kyle is considering studying to be a chemical engineer. Wunrow is torn between business, economics, computer engineering and computer science as majors in college.

Like in elementary school, they rely on each other still in some of their classes, including physics.

“We’re partners in physics and argue a lot,” Wunrow said.

Their favorite class this year is calculus, which only proves they are in rare company.

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