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OHS Aca Dec team clinches third consecutive county title
On a roll
Shock and celebration: Coach Dee Hawksworth, bottom row, shows apparent surprise as she turns to Aca Dec team member Carter Franca upon hearing of the team’s Super Quiz win at the 44th Annual Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon. Teresa Hammond/The Leader

Oakdale High School has once again been named ‘Champion’ of the Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon.

On Saturday, Feb. 3 the small but mighty OHS Aca Dec Team of 16 students proved to be the best in the county, winning both the Super Quiz, as well as the overall title, securing the 21st win for the school at the 44th Annual Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon. The event was hosted at Johansen High School.

The competing team of nine will now advance to the state competition, which will be hosted in Santa Clara from March 21 through 24. They will attend representing Stanislaus County. Competing 2024 team members are: Honors (GPA 3.8-4.0) - Joseph Yakligian, Landon Arnold and Iyska Rangel; Scholastic (GPA 3.2-3.799) - Carter Franca, Daniella Guido and Jamie Ruddy; Varsity (GPA 0.0-3/199) - Julia Chavez, Jacob Johnson and Evelyn Acker.

“I’m still having difficulty believing it. It was crazy at the time and it’s still crazy now,” OHS senior and Scholastic team member Carter Franca shared.

As the lone four-year veteran on the team, Franca had not a good, but a great day Saturday. He earned a total of nine medals, eight of which were first place, as well as taking Top Score in the County with 7,272 points.

“My favorite part is always when all three kids from a division get on the winner board and that happened five times,” OHS Team Coach, Dee Hawksworth, stated. “Julia Chavez won the Top Varsity Award as a sophomore and Joseph Yakligian and Carter Franca earned 7k pins. Finally, seeing Carter get the top Scholastic Award for the third year in a row was bittersweet.”

The OHS Aca Dec team has a well-known legacy throughout the county, securing the championship from 2001 to 2016. The “streak” was broken in 2017, taking second to Hughson High School. Since then, there has been a bit of a dance from first to second for the OHS team.

Showing up at Johansen on Saturday morning, as the defending champs of 2022 and 2023, Franca had shared in a prior interview he hoped the team could begin a “new streak.” And that they did.

“I was really nervous. I had no idea how it was going to turn out,” Franca said following Saturday’s win. “I wasn’t sure if I was doing well. I never could have expected the final result.”

This year’s topic of Technology and Humanity, the competing team shared prior to Saturday’s event, was not just challenging but downright hard. Yet their studies and teamwork proved to be just the right amount, earning a total score of 36,063, almost 7,000 total points ahead of second place Hughson High School.

“I was nervous going into the competition,” Hawksworth confided, noting her confidence was a bit higher in 2023 due to the number of seniors and seasoned members on the competing team. “But we won by a greater point span this year. It goes to show I’m not the best judge, probably because I can never know how prepared the other schools are.”

It was a day with plenty of excitement for the team on many levels.

“Honestly, I was surprised that we won the Super Quiz,” Coach Hawksworth shared of her own nervousness, feeling jitters even now in her ninth year as team coach. “I actually kept telling myself that there have been times when we didn’t win the Super Quiz but still won the competition, so I was pleasantly surprised.”

Now with his final county competition behind him, Franca has begun to think about the state competition and what he’d like to achieve.

“Last year I got a medal at state for an essay,” he said. “I would like to get more this year if possible. At state you can specialize more in certain topics, instead of trying to go for everything like we do at county.”

Franca shared he’s grateful for the overall experience and all that he’s gained from being a part of the OHS Aca Dec Team.

“It’s been a wonderful experience. It’s been lovely getting to work with a team of amazing, talented, friendly people,” he said. “Also it’s given me all sorts of valuable skills.”

Smiles, medals and trophies were abundant as the OHS Aca Dec team clinched the ‘W’ for the 21st time at the 44th Annual Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon on Saturday, Feb. 3. The OHS competing team will now advance to the State competition where they will represent the county. Teresa Hammond/The Leader
The only senior team member and four-year Aca Dec participant Carter Franca looks to his family in the stands as he celebrates going out with a team Academic Decathlon Championship. Teresa Hammond/The Leader