Academic Decathlon is a nationwide competition involving different high schools, each participating in 10 subjects: Mathematics, Science, Language and Literature, Economics, Social Science, Music, Art, Essay, Speech, and Interview. It originally started in Orange County. Each year there is a different topic. This year’s topic was “New Alternatives and Energy, Innovations and Ingenuity”. All the material decathletes study revolve around this one topic that is determined by the United States Academic Decathlon (USAD) organization. The USAD determines the topic will be in March for the upcoming year. Mater Dei begins recruiting students in March.
After the team is determined, students meet in May once a week to begin preparing for the prospective season. Academic Decathlon needs a variety of GPA levels. “It brings together students of all parts of the school community,” said Anna-Lisa George, Academic Decathlon coach.
Decathletes then can attend a three-week summer camp where resource guides and materials are provided for their benefit. Resource guides are 200 pages and are equivalent to a full semester college course. The team studies these individually all the way up to their competition which is the last week of January and first week of February. There is one regional competition that is split up in two parts, speech interview and essay and then the actual course work that the students have been studying all year long.
Clearly Mater Dei’s Academic Decathlon did a sound job of preparing for their regional competition. The day before Mater Dei’s competition, Melissa Coyle, a junior at Mater Dei, said “We have a really good group this year, who’s been preparing nonstop for this. We’re confident.”
She was right. Not only were they regional champions, Jonathan Saba, junior, won the second top student in the competition of 365 students. The Division One team won the Super Quiz out of about 40 teams and Division Two won third place in Super Quiz. Some of the team members said that their weakest subjects were music, literature and arts, but that did not hold them back.
“You need the right combination of just the right people, with the right attitudes who really want it,” said George. Academic Decathlon puts in practice time and deeply wanted this win.
No one is specialized in one specific event. The team has to work together and help each other. Time is the only challenge for Mater Dei between now and State Competition.
Winners of every state go to Nationals in April.