The San Joaquín County Office of Education assembled hundreds of the area's finest young minds for the 32nd annual Academic Decathlon last Saturday at the Scottish Rite Auditorium.
Approximately 275 students representing 12 schools, including 11 from San Joaquín County, competed in a series of events. Each year offers a different theme. This year's theme was Russia. Organizers and volunteers marveled at the impressive collection of brainpower as students answered difficult questions about Russian art, economics and other topics.
"These students will be our doctors someday," said Annie Cunial, coordinator of student events and activities for the San Joaquín County Office of Education. "They'll be the ones that find the cure for cancer."
The Academic Decathlon features written tests in art, economics, language/literature, mathematics, music, social science and science. Students also write essays and present speeches. The event culminates with the Super Quiz, a lively team competition held before a live audience in a raucous auditorium.
"It rivals any basketball sporting event you can go to," Cunial said. "They're excited for their team. They've put in a lot of time to prepare for it, and this is their game day."
Gavin O'Malley, a freshman at Manteca High, said participating in the Academic Decathlon has been a rewarding experience.
"It was kind of boring the first few months because we were just studying, studying, studying, but leading up to this we've been gearing up and becoming more serious, and it really has been one of the better experiences of my life," O'Malley said. "I've really enjoyed it. The sheer, raw information that you have to cram into your head is amazing, but the payoff is amazing as well."
Individual and team winners in the varsity, scholastic and honors divisions were announced Feb. 6 at an awards ceremony at the Scottish Rite Auditorium. Rich Toledo, director of admissions at University of the Pacific, was on hand to present scholarships to a number of students. The winning team advances to the State Academic Decathlon Championship in Sacramento in March.
Deputy Superintendent Gary Dei Rossi moderated the Super Quiz for the 21st time, this time in a San Francisco 49ers cap. He said he always enjoys seeing the enthusiasm and camaraderie among students.
"They get to work together and they get to learn at a different rate," Dei Rossi said. "Instead of just listening to a teacher, they learn from each other. They do research together. They have to do it as a team, and that's what gets them so pumped up."
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