Nine high school students from Troitsk, Soviet Union, are cracking the textbooks this winter preparing for academic competition next spring. Among the things they're poring over are English dictionaries, international anthologies of literature and textbooks on geography and social studies.

The students, their coaches and a delegation of parents and educators have accepted an invitation to participate in the Utah State University Academic Olympiad next March. Members of the Utah Academic Olympiad Committee delivered the study materials to Troitsk, a city some 40 kilometers from Moscow, in August.According to Olympiad director Varnell Bench, associate dean of the College of Education at USU, the American team spent 14 days in Russia as guests of Troitsk residents. The itinerary included working with the participating schools, several day trips into Moscow and a four-day tour to Leningrad and surrounding area.

Troitsk is inhabited by employees of the Atomic Energy Institute, which is sponsoring the Russian half of the academic exchange, Bench said. The trip to Russia established strong, personal relations with people involved in the project and allowed educators to complete details of the competition.

"The olympiad consists of two parts. The morning is spent taking individual exams in science, mathematics, social studies and language arts. Tests will be printed in English and Russian," Bench said.

"Following a banquet, the students compete in "Star Wars," similar to College Bowl. Questions will be asked in Russian and English, alternating as to which language is spoken first. All questions will be projected simultaneously on screens in both languages."

Bench's Soviet counterpart, Valery Zyukov, is deputy director of Troitsk's education microunit, similar to a superintendent of a U.S. school district. The Utahns proposed the idea of an academic competition to him last spring when Zyukov was in Salt Lake City as part of a school exchange program with Olympus High School.

"His interest was immediate," said Bench, "and the response from Troitsk is wonderful. The task of raising funds to send a Utah team of high school students to Troitsk for an exchange visit is spearheaded by Phi Delta Kappa, a co-sponsor of USU's Academic Olympiad.