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Oakdale Mustangs Set Sights On Reclaiming Aca Dec Title
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Oakdale High Schools Aca Dec Team is making final preparations for the 38th Annual Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon this Saturday, Feb. 3. Photographed left to right: Jean Pagaduan, Joey Navarro, Ethan Brown, Jude Markel, Christian Capuno, Tayler Downing, Olin Yost, Michael Oliver and Michael Dunn. - photo by Teresa Hammond/The Leader

It’s a new day and a bit of a new beginning for Oakdale High’s 2018 Academic Decathlon Team. For the first time in 17 years the team will approach the 38th Annual Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon minus the pressure of “the streak.” A 16-year long winning streak came to an end in 2017 when the team was defeated by the Hughson Huskies.

The team of 30 will return to compete against the Huskies, as well as 11 other Stanislaus County schools on Saturday, Feb. 3 at Ceres High School. The Super Quiz, the public portion of the event, as well as the awards presentation are scheduled from 1:20 p.m. to 5 p.m.

This year’s competing team consists of two veteran members, three new to the team entirely and four past alternates, creating a variety of experience which may make for the perfect winning recipe.

“I think there’s even more pressure to reclaim it,” returning team member and OHS senior Jude Markel stated. “I’m feeling really good about our chances this year.”

The competing team members are: Honors (3.75-4.00 GPA): Ethan Brown, Jean Pagaduan and Joey Navarro; Scholastic (3.00-3.74 GPA): Jude Markel, Christian Capuno and Tayler Downing; Varsity (0.00- 2.99 GPA): Michael Oliver, Olin Yost and Michael Dunn.

“It’s definitely gotten easier compared to last year,” fellow veteran member, sophomore Olin Yost said of the preparation and discipline to be ready for the academic event. “I feel like our stance is really good.”

“We all get along,” Christian Capuno shared. “We all study together. A lot of us have known each other for years.”

Preparation for the event as a team began in mid-December. This year’s featured theme is “Africa.” It’s a topic each of the members shared they found interesting, as well as enlightening.

“It’s a lot more interesting than we expected,” Markel stated of the category.

Newly recruited member Michael Dunn shared he was encouraged by school Vice Principal Shannon Kettering to check out the group. Now a senior, Dunn stated he was unfamiliar with the team and Aca Dec as a whole, but is finding it to be enjoyable.

“I like the idea of it,” Dunn said. “So I gave it a shot.”

Fellow newbie and Varsity teammate Michael Oliver echoed Dunn’s sentiments stating, “I feel okay. It’s just like any other subject. It’s just more concentrated and the goal is to win.”

While the team as a whole maintains an overall humble attitude, the goal remains clear: return the title back to Oakdale and move on to State. They’ve identified both Hughson and Ceres as the teams to beat.

“We’re going to take back the title,” Capuno said.


The winner of this year’s event will represent Stanislaus County at the California Academic Decathlon State Finals, March 23 and 24, in Sacramento.