Fernando Cruz was new to the Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon competition this year, but that did not stop from giving it his best.
The Oakdale High School junior won a total of seven individual medals last Saturday during the Super Quiz. Moments later his school was named this year's champions for the thirteenth year in a row.
"It feels awesome!" said Cruz, who joined the team because a friend recommended it to him. "It's really a lot of work but you get so much knowledge out of it."
His teammate senior Miguel Barajas said he enjoyed the camaraderie that comes with being part of the Aca Deca team.
"We work together with the rest of the team and you get to learn more about the topic than if you did it on your own. It is difficult and a challenge every year but you enjoy it," said Barajas who hopes to be a surgeon one day.
This was Barajas' second year on the team and he convinced senior Julio González to join.
"I thought it would be great to join because of the experience," said González, who plans on a career in business or engineering.
On the other side of the Gregori High School gymnasium where the awards ceremony took place, Tatiana Olivera kept her cool as she won seven individual medals plus the highest point earner award from her Ceres High School team.
Olivera, who was team captain and had four years of experience on the Aca Deca Team, said this year's theme 'Russia' was a bit of a challenge.
"It was difficult because I didn't know anything about Russia," she said. "But I enjoyed the teamwork experience because it feels like they are family to me."
A total of 12 high schools throughout the county participated in this year's 33rd annual competition. Oakdale High School will move on to compete in the State Academic Decathlon set for March in Sacramento.