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OJHS Team Prepares For Annual Pentathlon
Oakdale Junior Highs Academic Pentathlon team will face off with six other schools this Saturday, for the 12th Annual Stanislaus County Academic Pentathlon. Photographed are Alyssa Castano, Jessica Arellano, Cael Black, Hailey Cabral, Jessi Garcia, Riley Miller, John Creech, Magnolia Ferguson-Rice, Winnie Yu and Coach Derek Gustafson. Not pictured: Nicole Batezell and Darby Schmidt. Teresa Hammond/The Leader

Eleven Oakdale Junior High School eighth graders will be among a field of approximately 150 students on Saturday as participants in the 12th Annual Stanislaus County Academic Pentathlon.

This marks the second year that Oakdale has sent a team to compete against other local junior high school squads which include teams from Blaker-Kinser, Creekside, Hickman, Keyes Charter, La Loma and Prescott.

The one-day series of tests, speeches and essays will be hosted on Saturday, April 30 at Prescott Junior High School (2243 West Rumble Road, Modesto). The public is invited to attend the culminating event, the Super Quiz and Awards Presentation. The Super Quiz will on be from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The Awards Ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. There is no charge for admission.

“I think the experience has benefitted the students by exposing them to a subject they did not know a whole lot about,” Pentathlon Coach Derek Gustafson said on this year’s topic of India. “The preparation for the competition is beneficial as it prepares them for the rigors of higher education.”

The team began meeting twice a week during the lunch period at the start of the 2016 school year. Unlike the highly recognized OHS Aca Dec team, there isn’t designated class time for studies and preparation at the junior high ‘Pentathlon’ level. The team of 11 is comprised of students who were invited to join as well as initiated interest.

“The hardest part is being committed to reading some of the content,” Alyssa Castano said of the increased workload.

All the students noted that while the juggle of required work and Pentathlon studies were not easy, they feel it’s been worth it.

“We all have gotten to know each other and work together as a team,” member John Creech said of the team bond.

Awareness of the record-holding sister team of the Oakdale High School Academic Decathlon Champs is also one which the team stays mindful of.

“It’s kind of nerve-wracking,” Riley Miller said. “It’s hard to get past not doing well.”

“It’s scary because we are representing Oakdale Junior High School,” Hailey Cabral added of the team and their commitment to giving their best.

Keeping focused on the foundation they build for the future of the OJHS Pentathlon team outweighed the OHS accomplishment, though some students did express interest in joining the Aca Dec team when they advance to high school.

“The success of the team thus far has been the willingness to sacrifice their time to be a part of the team,” Gustafson said. “Their dedication to the lunch meetings as well as fitting in what essentially amounts to “extra homework” is something I would view as a success.”

“We have all gained some type of confidence,” Jessica Arellano said of the team.

Sponsored by the Stanislaus County Office of Education, Omega Nu and the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County, the Pentathlon promotes scholastic achievement and interschool competition in academics. In the Pentathlon, seventh and eighth graders compete as individuals and as team members in Speech and in a series of five tests in subject areas including Mathematics, Fine Arts, Language Arts, Science and Social Studies.

Participating schools send a total of nine members to serve as the core team – three students, in each of three categories, based on grade point averages. Schools may send as many alternate team members as they choose. Categories include Honors, 3.75-4.00 GPA; Scholastic, 3.00-3.74 GPA; and Varsity, 0.00-2.99 GP