The Oakdale High School Academic Decathlon team has been the reigning Stanislaus County Champions for as long as some team members have been alive. That’s a tall order to maintain; the nine member competing team, however, shared they are up to the task.
The Academic Decathlon is a two-day series of tests, speeches and interviews featuring this year’s theme, “India.” The public portion of the competition will be the Super Quiz followed by awards on Saturday, Feb. 6 beginning at 1:20 p.m. This year’s event will be hosted at the Davis High School Auditorium, 1200 W. Rumble Road, Modesto. There is no charge for admission.
The competing nine, seven of which are seniors, have put their game faces on and are prepared for the task at hand.
The competing team is as follows: Honors (3.75+ GPA): Taryn Lane, Michael Winders and Emma Boggs; Scholastic Team (3.0-3.74 GPA): Caitlin Golding, Jackie Cerda and Savannah Larsen; Varsity Team (less than 3.0 GPA): Jared Medeiros, Sarah Sorenson and Jonathon Hintz.
“Everyone wonders what the secret is for Oakdale,” Team Coach Dee Hawksworth said, “and the secret is hard work. They really put in the hours.”
Hawksworth is new to the team in the Coach position, replacing former coach Linda Dodge.
“Linda Dodge has been amazingly helpful and supportive,” the coach stated. “She shared all of her files with me and she answers all of my crazy emails with patience and reassurance.
“This is a great year to have a new coach,” Hawksworth continued, “since the competing team is older and fairly experienced. We wouldn’t want a new coach and a brand new team.”
“There’s a lot of pressure,” OHS senior and Scholastic team member Caitlin Golding shared, “15 years is a lot. We don’t want to let down our school or our community. We know how much we’ve been working and we know what we’ve done to get there.”
This year’s topic of India, is one the students shared has been both interesting as well as enlightening.
“There’s definitely a new found respect that I now have as a whole,” Varsity member Sarah Sorenson said of the country and its people. “It’s something we can all empathize with.”
While the students spend the majority of the school year, as well as free time preparing for the competition, they recognize this is the one time of the year that the campus and community eyes switch from sports to academics.
“It’s a class and a sport and a club,” Caitlin said of the Aca Dec dynamic. “The biggest misperception is that we’re all a bunch of nerds. It’s a balancing act of multiple things for most of us.”
“I spend more time on this than I spent doing a sport,” Sarah said.
“We’re a pretty well rounded group,” fellow senior and OJUSD student board member Michael Winders said.
While the faces of the coaches and teammates may have changed during the 15 years of championships, one thing remains constant – the team shirt. As homage to the winning legacy the OHS Aca Dec team continues to wear the red mock neck long sleeve shirt as the groundbreaking winning team did in 2001.
“You think it’s hard work studying. It’s hard work wearing those shirts,” Sarah confided.
“When I ordered the shirt the guy laughed at me,” Hawksworth said. “He said you’re the only team that orders this. I said… I know.”
The nine member team laughs at the notion, as well as the superstition, yet ... they won’t make that change. The shirt stays.