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OHS Alum Coaches Winning Aca Dec Team
Outside of her Oakdale home, Wendy Brown brought a different type of Aca Dec accolade, as an Oakdale High alum and the coach of the 2021 Academic Decathlon winning team, Enochs High of Modesto. Teresa Hammond/The Leader

Those who know or have been taught by Wendy Brown, may say her recent team win was both long overdue and well deserved.

Yet the reality of winning is it takes hard work, dedication, commitment and smarts. It was in February when the Oakdale High School alum and Enochs High School Aca Dec Coach learned that is exactly what her 2020-21 team possessed. Brown’s team of 10 (seven competing member and three alternates) was named the Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon Champions.

According to Brown the results were to be announced on Monday, Feb. 8 following the virtual competition which was hosted the prior Saturday, Feb. 6. The time was moved to Tuesday to allow time to download all the scores.

At 4 p.m. on Feb. 9, Brown and her team logged in to find another delay, but by 5:20 p.m. that evening not only had the results of all medalists and plaque recipients been announced, but so, too, had the winner.

“I was grinning ear to ear the entire awards presentation,” Brown said of watching virtually from her Oakdale home, as her students did the same. “I was standing up at my desk and yelling and screaming and clapping.”

Brown confessed that with two overall category winners on her team, as well as a medal count of 50 total for the team, she was busy cheering during the entire 17-minute presentation.

“We screamed, I don’t even know,” Brown recounted of the emotion that Tuesday afternoon. “Screamed, yelled, there were some tears. I got a little teary eyed.”

It was, after all, the culmination of hard work from team members and coach that brought the dream of a championship to fruition.

“I was already proud of my kids from the beginning. Makes me want to get choked up now,” she shared recently, eyes welling up with tears. “They’re doing a good job and it’s a lot of extra work.”

Not unfamiliar with the commitment and pressure herself of Academic Decathlon competition, the Enochs High School Spanish teacher was a member of the 1997 Oakdale High School team. She competed on the Scholastic team.

“I don’t even remember how it started,” she said of joining the team her senior year. “It was just like, hey let’s do this and it was a bunch of our friends.”

“It was just a club then. That was before the streak,” she added of the OHS team. “That was in 1997, but we won second place that year. It was the first time Oakdale had placed in ten years, at that point.”

With Aca Dec Club experience and a passion for students and learning, Brown shared she first expressed an interest in coaching the Enochs Aca Dec Club team a decade ago and was passed over for another teacher. Fortunately for Enochs and Brown, that lasted just a year, and Brown was approached to take on the task. She’s coached for the past nine years.

“It was so exciting. It was meant to be,” she said of the assignment. “It’s always fun to see the kids learn about something new and then watch them compete.”

Under Brown’s leadership the Enochs Club has won Top Club Award multiple times at the County Competition, as well as placed Third Overall in 2020.

“Which was the highest we’d ever placed, so that was exciting,” she shared of jumping from third to first this year.

The obvious difference between coaching the 2020 team versus the current year, were the challenges presented from Distance Learning. The Enochs team did not meet daily, but rather once a week for roughly 30 to 45 minutes. There were no in person meetings due to COVID restrictions.

Yet Brown’s team stayed committed and did the work regardless of what some may view as a setback. To help keep them motivated she shared utilizing “remind” messages to help maintain their focus, as well as positive feedback and door drops of goody bags for incentive.

“I always want the kids to medal. I want them to see some evidence of their hard work,” Brown confided, “and I don’t want them to feel if they don’t get a medal, they didn’t work very hard. I always hope they get a little something of ‘yay I did this’.”

While the team may have been small, it proved to be indeed mighty, with seven competing team members versus the preferred nine, pressure for the test-driven competition proved to be a bit more intense.

“You can have up to nine competing team members, but we didn’t have an extra varsity or an extra scholastic that wanted to fill those spots,” the coach shared. “It’s definitely better to have three (per competing team). At least two makes you competitive; when you only have one person in the chair you’re taking a zero every time. That’s hard.”

Odds and numbers aside, the Enochs team proved to have exactly what it took to be named champion and now go on to represent the county at the State Level. A prospect which Brown shared is a bit nerve wracking, yet also exciting.

“They’re my kids, I feel like I’m the mother goose and they’re all my little goslings,” she said. “I just want them to do well. I just want them all to feel successful at the end of the day.”

Not one to let accolades or proper acknowledgment slip past, following the virtual announcement of the awards, Brown met the students at the campus to personally deliver their trophies and envelopes of medals and certificates.

“I brought a little table, put all the trophies on the table because I wanted them to see it all together,” Brown said of her on campus presentation.

“No Modesto City school in over 20 years has been able to place,” Brown stated proudly. “Just really proud of the kids. They worked really hard. Even when they didn’t have the time, the made the time and I’m just really proud of them.”