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Acadec places 3rd in D3, accumulates 13 medals

The FC Academic Decathlon (AcaDec) team concluded their competition season after participating in the second half of the 30th annual Fresno County Academic Decathlon Competition, Feb. 4. FC placed 3rd in Division 3 and 11th overall with a score of 28,744.6 and an aggregate total of 13 medals among its seven team members.

After five months of studying for the Age of Imperialism — the 2012 AcaDec subject — students from around the Central Valley travelled to California State University, Fresno, for the first part of the county competition, Jan. 28. During this last weekend, team members were tested on the remaining objective material, which included seven tests and the Super Quiz event, held at Glacier Point Middle School.

Each year, the AcaDec curriculum evaluates students’ knowledge and abilities in 10 categories: Essay, Interview and Speech make up the “subjectives,” while Art, Economics, Language and Literature, Mathematics, Music, Science and Super Quiz (social science) comprise the “objectives.” Additionally, each team is divided into three subunits according to GPA — varsity for C averages, scholastic for Bs and honors for As — composing a maximum of nine members per team.

After being moved down from Division 2 last year, coach Molly Sargent attempted to prepare her team more thoroughly for competition in the 2012 season. Despite this, the results of her students’ development remained ambiguous throughout the year, she says.

“At the beginning of the year and even as the first semester moved along, I had no idea how this group was going to do,” Sargent said. “I usually have some idea, based on whether or not I’ve had them in a class before or how they study … But with this team, I thought there was potential to be really good, but I didn’t know.”

Though they scored lower than last year, the team saw a general development in each of its member. According to Sargent, it may have been a lack of drive that kept FC from placing in the top 10.

“I’m not saying we had team members who just didn’t care about their score, I think everybody cared about their score, but there’s different levels of that and that happens every year,” Sargent said. “That’s why a team like University [High School] or Edison [High School] will win, because every single person is 100 percent invested into the program. We don’t seem to have that here, and I don’t know if I would want that, that’s not our philosophy. Our philosophy is to learn as much as we can, have a good team experience and then hopefully get some reward at the end for the work that everyone’s put into it. We’ve never had the philosophy that we’ve wanted to win. I understand what that requires and it’s too tedious.”

In order to acknowledge top-scoring individuals and schools, the Fresno County Office of Education puts on an awards ceremony at the place of their choosing each year. However, this year during the ceremony, an error occurred during the program, resulting in three schools — FC, Washington Union High School and Design Science High School — initially being left out of the awards. Fortunately the error was pointed out in time, and students from the three schools received recognition.

“Honestly, I was pretty chill about it,” first-year participant Lizzie Williams, ’12, said. “We were pretty sure something was wrong, especially when we got to Econ and Zach [Diaz de la Cuesta, ’12] didn’t medal. At that point we were hoping that our names wouldn’t come up so that we could ask about it later. For a split second I was worried there was something wrong I or one of my teammates had done, but, when I asked Mrs. Sargent, she said that they would have told us if we had been disqualified, so I wasn’t really concerned.”

With the conclusion of competition, Williams came away with the team’s highest score of 5,807.7 and won three Bronze Medals in Art, Essay and Langauge and Literature. As FC was only 632 points away from placing 10th overall, Williams was impressed by how well both she and her teammates performed.

“I was surprised to learn that we were almost in the top 10,” Williams said. “It’s so easy in AcaDec to feel like you’re not at all prepared, so it was nice to know that we learned something. I feel like the competition is almost luck of the draw, so I wasn’t expecting the score I got. It’s not that I don’t care, I appreciate my score, but it doesn’t diminish all the hard work that everyone else on the team put into it.”

Being the team’s senior-most member, Diaz de la Cuesta felt that, had his team not been moved down from Division 2, they would have faired better in the competition. FC came behind two top-scoring schools, Roosevelt High School and CentraI High School, in their division.

“We would have won more medals and done much better in Division 2; we got unlucky being put into Division 3 because Central ended up being 4th overall,” Diaz de la Cuesta said. “But I feel like, though our score was worse off this year, it was, in terms of each individual member, their best by far. The thing we could have done differently would be to stay more efficient and study each individual topic a little more. Next year I hope Mrs. Sargent can find a way to get alternative material that is easier to navigate.”

Though many first-timers were nervous about their scores, junior Kristen Rosenthal came away with a Gold in Interview. Rosenthal was genuinely surprised by her medal, as she believed the only thing she would leave the season with was a closer connection to her teammates.

“I wasn’t expecting to get anything,” Rosenthal said. “I was honestly surprised when they called my name to get the Gold. I didn’t expect anything, but it was really exciting watching my other teammates go up and get their medals. After all the time you spend with them studying and goofing around, it’s awesome to watch them succeed. I truly thought that if I didn’t end up getting a medal it would be perfectly fine because at least I would have become friends with some really awesome people.”

After coaching AcaDec for 13 years, Sargent believes that the key to a great team is self-sacrifice. Though it’s fun to win medals, Sargent hopes that, next year, she can work with her students on being more unified toward a common goal.

“One of the things we try to teach here is that you sacrifice your own rights for the rights of others; it’s about loving God and loving others as yourself, and if you’re not willing to do that then that’s not necessarily an activity I’m excited to be a part of,” Sargent said. “But if I can get six to nine students who totally buy into that concept of community, of team, of encouraging, helping and being beneficial to each other, then that’s what the spirit of Academic Decathlon is all about. It really isn’t about individual awards. You do get them, and it’s nice to have them, don’t get me wrong. But I think most kids would rather their team did well than they themselves did well.”

For a photo montage of the event, check out the Super Quiz challenges AdaDec competitors (58 PHOTOS). For more information on AcaDec, read the Jan. 30 article, First day of AcaDec features subjective evaluations or the Dec. 2, 2011 article, Age of Imperialism seizes AcaDec theme.

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    Logan RoodMar 22, 2012 at 12:04 am

    This picture is priceless.. I heard they had a ton of fun on their field trip. It does seem like it was a blast!