UHS Wins Orange County Academic Decathlon for the First Time Ever

The+Academic+Decathlon+team+celebrates+their+regional+competition+win+on+the+front+lawn+of+the+administration+building%2C+abiding+by+COVID+guidelines.

The Academic Decathlon team celebrates their regional competition win on the front lawn of the administration building, abiding by COVID guidelines.

By MOHIT KOSURU
Staff Writer

UHS students won their first Orange County Academic Decathlon, after 12 to 13 years of involvement, giving them an automatic bid to the state competition.
The topic for this year was “The Cold War”. The team consisted of nine players, including seniors Elaine Chao, Adi Krishnamoorthy, Ozhan Zarifi, and juniors Kiana Agahi, Vansh Goel, Grace Lee, Donya Sharafkhanian, Arwen Wang, and Sophia Wang.
Teacher advisor Mr. Chris Esposito credits their success to their teamwork and balanced preparation.
“The team finally mastered the art of teamwork and realized that all nine [team members] needed to know the information and practice their performances, so they made goals based on that,” Esposito said. “They motivated and helped each other, focusing on their strengths and weaknesses to develop a teamwork support system.”
This year, students had to work together online, which differed from last year where they were able to meet in-person and hold frequent meetings.
“Normally teams meet in-person dozens of times throughout the semester in the library, my room, parks, coffee shops and houses to study and prepare,” Esposito said. “This year it all had to be done via Zoom.”
The team, however, took full advantage of their time at home, and began preparing for the competition earlier.
“We started to prepare this summer and every week we would have a subject commissioner give a lecture about the topic [and we would take] quizzes to determine the rankings on the team,” said Wang, who is team captain .
Unlike previous years, all aspects of this competition were held fully online due to the pandemic. Wang said that they could not do different segments such as super quizzes and listening questions involving music selections.
“It was definitely harder to study together online, but we utilized various online platforms to connect such as Remind and Discord,” Wang said. “The AcaDeca website for testing is extremely old so some of our members experienced a lot of difficulties during the competition.”
Woodbridge High school, a fierce rival for many years, scored a close 2nd place after winning at regionals for four years straight.
Many team members were doubtful that they would win, due to Woodbridge’s winning streak. The closest Uni has been to winning the Orange County Academic Decathlon was getting 2nd place in 2019. Last year, UNI placed 5th and did not qualify for state.
“We didn’t really expect to win though since Woodbridge had beat us by 12,000 points last year, and won for three years straight before that,” Krishnamoorthy said.
This year, UNI won by more than 580 points with a final score of 44,289.5.
The official awards ceremony was streamed online on January 17. There was an announcement during the meeting that emphasized UHS’s first victory. Even though the team faced several hardships throughout the process, the team was honored to have been a part of this experience.
“The online competition experience was obviously a lot more different…but I think overall the experience in AcaDeca was extremely fun as we were able to bond as a team even on online platforms,” Wang said.
Some students on the team, including Goel, have been a part of Academic Decathlon since their freshman year and were excited to finally get first place in the local competition.
“I have been doing Academic Decathlon since my freshman year and have been enjoying every part of it since then,” Goel said. “To finally be part of a victory after so much hard work was extremely rewarding and satisfying.”