There’s a freshness and excitement to this year’s Oakdale High School Academic Decathlon team which may surprise their opponents.
To the onlooker they might appear young, inexperienced perhaps even ‘green’ and that they are. Yet as the nine-member competing team with one returning veteran prepares for Saturday’s Stanislaus County competition, they seem anything but nervous.
“This is definitely the nicest group of people I’ve worked with,” stated lone veteran team member, senior Taryn Lane.
The 2017 year marks Taryn’s fourth on the Honors competing team. She is the only competing member returning from last year.
“They’re definitely the most fun,” Taryn said of her eight teammates, comprised of three freshmen, one sophomore, two juniors and two fellow seniors. “I feel like this team has definitely been really good as far as staying focused.”
The 2017 Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon will be hosted Saturday, Feb. 4 at Central Catholic High School, Modesto. This year’s theme is “World War II.” The ever popular Super Quiz is the portion of the competition open to the public. Super Quiz is scheduled to begin shortly after 1 p.m. with awards to follow.
The 2017 Aca Dec competing team includes: Honors - Taryn Lane, Anna Hawksworth-Lutzow and Russell Pabalan; Scholastic - Jude Markel, Rebekah DeCavit and Autumn Neal; Varsity - Olin Yost, Jayden Bowman and Cailyn Kiolbassa.
The competing team as a whole shared feeling both comfortable and confident with the World War II topic, noting traditional learning of the topic as being helpful in the way of familiarity.
“World War II in a way is easier than India,” senior Anna Hawksworth-Lutzow stated of the 2016 Aca Dec theme. “Because last year we had words in different languages that we weren’t familiar with.”
“It’s also a disadvantage for us in other ways,” junior Jude Markel acknowledged, “because it means it’s easier for other teams to guess which ones are the right answer.”
Aside from a few categories and the Super Quiz, much of the study/prep time is done individually, with teammates offering help in their individual areas of expertise, such as art, science, etc.
“I rely on pneumonic devices to help remember,” Autumn Neal said.
“For me it comes down to reading the packet,” Russell Pabalan said of preparation, “because other people aren’t doing the same.”
As the theme and team has evolved over the course of the past 16 years, one thing has remained the same - the team shirt. From year one to year 16 the OHS team has maintained the long sleeved, red, mock neck logo shirt for every competition. Now in year 17, this may be the final year. A superstition which has been upheld for close to two decades may see its final competition.
“We have a bit of an issue this year because we’ve been wearing the same mock turtleneck for the entire streak,” Anna stated. “This year they’ve stopped making those shirts.”
The team shared they have solicited the help of past teammates as well as siblings who have competed on former teams, to help with the lending of the signature shirt.
“This year is kind of the year for new things,” Russell added, noting a disconnect from superstition. “I feel like holding on to superstitions is past us at this point.”
The youngness of the team, three freshmen sitting in competing seats and one loan competing senior with veteran status contribute to Russell’s theory.
“Out of all the many years that we’ve won,” he continued, “if we pull this off it will be one of the toughest times.”
“Just because the odds are like stacked against us,” Taryn added, “but not in a bad way.”
“I feel like they’ve worked really hard,” second year coach Dee Hawksworth said. “I’m mostly nervous because they’re really young. I do have three seniors, but it still feels really young.”
Youthful and exuberant, the decathletes will head to competition as prepared as possible.
“This team is very nice and fun,” the coach noted. “I think they’re ready.”