BY VINCENT WOO
The UHS Academic Decathlon (AcaDeca) team qualified for the statewide California Academic Decathlon for a second consecutive year.
The state competition will run from March 22 and 23 in Sacramento. Teams from sixty schools will travel to the state capital to compete for three spots at the national United States Academic Decathlon.
The UHS team took second place at the Orange County Decathlon on February 2, only behind Woodbridge High. According to club advisor Mr. Christopher Esposito, the team’s second repeated achievement is due to improved studying habits.
“I think the [AcaDeca] team finally realized the strategy necessary to win the competition,” Esposito said. “We were going to these competitions and we weren’t winning anything…and in order to win, you need to know your stuff. These nine students…just recognized how to work the system, and so they [committed] to knowing their stuff and knowing it well.”
AcaDeca team captain and senior Kyle Chen believes the team’s focus on teamwork allowed them to be successful this year.
“[In the past,] everyone really just focused on their individual work and said ‘Oh, it’ll work out in the end.’ But this year, and last year as well, we really stressed the importance of team meetings and everyone helping each other out,” Chen said.
Chen received multiple awards, including finishing first in art, music, and social science, placing third in the competition overall. Seven of the team’s nine members ranked in the top five of an event.
The AcaDeca team, comprised of nine members, is split into three brackets — Honors, Scholastic, and Varsity — of three members each, based on GPA. All the brackets receive the same material and same test questions during the competition.
Preparation for the competitions requires copious amounts of studying for its participants.
“The number-one preparation for the competitions is reading,” Esposito said. “We receive an original curriculum…and students need to read that several times. And then there are the supplements, which back up that curriculum.”
Academic Decathlon competitions are comprised of ten events, with seven academic exams in subjects ranging from math to literature, and three open-ended events: a themed interview, impromptu speech and an essay. The final event, the Super Quiz, is a trivia-based round in which teams from each competing school answer general trivia questions in front of a live audience.
All events in the competition are based off a common theme for the year, with this year’s theme being the 1960s.
“It’s like getting a master’s degree, high school style,” Esposito said. “They’ll pick a specific topic and master it, because they focus on one thing intensively which AcaDeca will use later on. So these students can say they’re a master of World War II, Africa, and now the 1960s… they know more about those three things than anyone on campus.”