Oakdale High School has won 13 consecutive Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon championships and number 14 is at stake.
Because OHS has won the county championship for so many successive years, the OHS team feels the pressure of wearing a big target.
Eva Galindo, a junior, has been a team alternate and is now in her first year on the OHS competing team. She said that the other teams are not their only competitors. She said that her teammates compete against each other and also their own selves, wanting to beat the prior year’s scores.
The Academic Decathlon is a two-day series of tests, speeches and interviews. The theme for this year’s contest is “World War I.” The culminating event is the Super Quiz and awards presentation, on Saturday, Feb. 1. Super Quiz starts at 1:30 p.m. and the awards start around 3 p.m. in the Gregori High School Gymnasium, 3701 Pirrone Road, Modesto. The public is invited to attend and there is no charge for admission.
Each of the 13 schools will send a nine-person competing team, made up of three different student groupings based on their grade point averages. The OHS Honors team members are Dylan Hawksworth-Lutzow, Ashley Caron, and Taryn Lane. The Scholastic team members are Alex Keyser, Adam Jensen, and Caitlin Golding. The Varsity team members are Eva Galindo, Jared Medeiros, and Cody Peterson. The Honors category is a 3.75-4.00 GPA; Scholastic, 3.00-3.74 GPA; and Varsity, 0.00-2.99 GPA.
Schools may also send as many alternate participants as they choose. OHS will have a total of 30 students, including the competing team, in the contest.
Senior Dylan Hawksworth-Lutzow is in his second year on the competing team and senior Adam Jensen is in his third year on the competing team.
Hawksworth-Lutzow is the reigning high-point winner from the county Aca Dec. Galindo said everyone on the team wants to beat him and Hawksworth-Lutzow acknowledged that he wants to do well against his own prior success.
“I’m not going to be devastated if I’m not high scorer again,” he said. “But the least I can do is live up to the effort I put out last year.”
Each of the students have their strengths and they share their knowledge with each other.
“I think there are definitely people who do better in different subjects,” Hawksworth-Lutzow said. “Alex (Keyser) is good at essay, Eva (Galindo) has a good speech… We’re all quite proficient. We help each other get better.”
“We balance each other out,” Galindo added.
“I think we have probably one of the strongest teams we’ve had in a while,” Jensen said. “The teams are getting stronger each year.”
He added that no Oakdale team wants to be the first team that doesn’t win and ends the OHS winning streak.
Hawksworth-Lutzow said that the team members are all very competitive and he joked that they are driven by fear and pride.
“It’s a lot of pressure but on the other hand, quite a privilege,” he said.
“It’s a blast… Winning is hard work. It takes a lot. It takes work, it takes energy,” Jensen added. “…There’s no secret to it. There’s nothing magical. We all study and work hard. Every year I find myself studying more.”
There are students on the OHS competing team this year who are completely new to the Aca Dec program – they are Caitlin Golding and freshman Taryn Lane.
OHS Aca Dec coach Linda Dodge noted that there are some less experienced members on the team, which is unusual, but they earned their spots by testing well. Dodge added that these members are also good for the long-term strength of the team.
“Like always, I’m nervous and scared for them,” Dodge admitted. “They’re all working really hard.”
She feels this year’s team is particularly strong in social science, economics, and also art.
This year’s team, while feeling the pressure, also feels inspired by the success of past teams. Galindo said that when she read in the newspaper about previous teams’ success, it gave her a feeling of awe. Now, though, she’s taken her place on the team and realizes it’s not as daunting as she thought. Jensen added that they can achieve success and compete with the ghosts of teams past.
The team members also talked about the level of support from their OHS classmates and teachers, as well as from the whole Oakdale community. Jensen noted that people at his church and around the community approach him and tell him that they’re rooting for him and the team. Hawksworth-Lutzow agreed that the level of support really must be looked at and noted it’s always a positive experience and reception from others.
The Aca Dec competition is for students at all academic achievement levels. Barbara Little, Stanislaus County Office of Education Student Events Coordinator, said the goal of the decathlon is to stimulate intellectual growth and scholastic success.
The other high schools competing this year are Beyer, Central Catholic, Ceres, Davis, Denair, Enochs, Gregori, Johansen, Keyes Charter, Modesto, Patterson and Valley Charter.
This year’s winner will represent Stanislaus County at the California Academic Decathlon State Finals, March 20-23 in Sacramento.