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Oakdale Academic Decathletes Prepare For State Competition
aca dec
The competing nine of the Oakdale High Academic Decathlon will once again make the trek to Sacramento to represent Stanislaus County in the State Competition this month. Student representatives of the championship team are: Honors - Taryn Lane, Michael Winders and Emma Boggs; Scholastic - Caitlin Golding, Jackie Cerda and Savannah Larsen; Varsity - Jared Medeiros, Sarah Sorenson and Jonathon Hintz. Teresa Hammond/The Leader

Oakdale High School’s Academic Decathlon Team has one more date with the theme of “India.” On Thursday, March 17 they will once again make the trek to Sacramento to represent Stanislaus County in the State Competition.

It is the 16th consecutive year that Oakdale has served as the county representative. For seven of the competing nine students, it is the final year that they will serve as representatives of Oakdale High School. Competing at State holds a different challenge for the OHS team. There is no legacy to uphold, there is no streak and there is very little in the way of community pressure. But not to be confused, this club holds true to its competitive edge and the competing nine want nothing more than to improve their scores, as well as the overall ranking as the county representative.

“Honestly, I’m not so worried about how the team will do,” first year Aca Dec Coach Dee Hawksworth shared. “I think they will do pretty well, as we will bring home medals.”

While seven of the nine traveling are in their senior year, not all are veterans to the State arena. Jackie Cerda bumped up to the scoring Scholastic Team from the alternate team this year and proved at county she was well deserving of the team’s signature mock neck. She placed in nine of the 10 categories at the county meet.

“It was a little intimidating at first,” Jackie shared, “because my scores weren’t as high as the others but that just pushed me even harder.”

Newcomer and fellow senior Jonathon Hintz also fared well. The OHS senior and newest member of the team went home with a respectable seven medals.

“Going into county I was incredibly nervous,” Jonathon confided. “Everything I had worked for was about to happen. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”

The baby of the group and a veteran all at the same time, junior Taryn Lane will face State for the third time, with hopes of returning a final time in 2017. Taryn has maintained a powerhouse presence through her tenure on the Honors team. At county she was awarded the coveted Overall Individual High Score Plaque, as well as multiple medals.

“This year I mostly placed first,” she said of the five gold medals earned at the County competition, “that was kind of different from past years. I’m kind of excited for next year. Even though I’ve been on the team for three years, I’m still the youngest.”

The team acknowledged the difference of traveling to State and the lack of pressure, making note of the Southern California teams that tend to dominate the competition each year.

“Now that we have our final scores from region we know what each person specializes in,” Jackie said of the team studying technique for their final competition.

“As contradictory as it may sound, the camaraderie of studying the same material brings us closer together,” Taryn said. “We still get just as close because we all want the other to do well.”

“We all want to place,” Jackie continued, “but as a team we all want each other to do well overall.”

“Honestly, I’m a little sad,” Jonathon said. “In two weeks most likely this is all over. My biggest regret is that I didn’t join Aca Dec sooner.”

“It will be sad,” Taryn agreed, “but at the same time I’m grateful I got to know all of them.”

“If it wasn’t for Aca Dec I wouldn’t be as confident as I am,” Jackie noted. “Not just test taking but speech, interview, essay and writing.”

The coach is confident in her young decathletes.

“I am anticipating their Essay scores will be higher, as they seem to feel better about topics this time,” Hawksworth said. “I also think we’ll do better in math because the kids have been making great strides in this area and our top math scorers won’t be sick this time ... hopefully.

“The overall mood of the team is … exhausted,” she stated. “The students are so busy. Their other commitments and the extra studying for Aca Dec are wearing them down. The good news is that we have spring break a week after State and they can rest then.”