By Dahlia Kraus,
PHOTO: The Academic Decathalon team meets over Zoom to prepare for their state competition.
Hundreds of study guide pages, 10 subjects, four competitions and one team. In preparation for the state competition, the Davis High Academic Decathalon (Acadeca) club members spent months preparing for their individual tests while working together as a team.
On March 27, Acadeca’s results from competing in the State Competition were released. Against 38 schools in their division, the team placed 13th overall and multiple people won individual medals for placing in the top three of events.
DHS’s Academic Decathalon team has existed for a “long, long time,” said Kurt McKomrick, DHS math teacher and Acadeca coach. “In fact, there’s a banner in the [DHS] front office from an Academic Decathlon team from either the late ‘70s or early ‘80s.”
In 2018, a group of DHS students approached McCormick in search of a new teacher sponsor for the Acadeca club. McCormick took on the responsibility. “I wanted to do my part to keep [Acadeca] going,” McCormick said.
Academic Decathalon teams compete by taking tests that cover 10 subjects. The seven objective tests, the majority being 50 multiple choice questions in 30 minutes, are art, economics, literature, mathematics, music, science and social science. The three subjective tests are a timed essay, a prepared and an impromptu speech and a panel interview.
Each year, the test material relates to a theme, this year’s being The Cold War.
Students compete in different divisions depending on their unweighted GPA: Honors is 3.75-4.0, Scholastic is 3.0-3.75 and Varsity below 3.0. To score well, it is important for teams to have participants in each division.
In competitions, participants take their tests individually and can win personal awards, “but the overall team score is what determins if [the team] moves on from regional to states,” said David Yang, DHS senior and Acadeca captain.
Last February, Acadeca competed in the Bay Region Academic Decathlon and scored third place against about 20 schools “which was really phenonenal,” McCormick said.
The team advanced by competing in the State Competition during the week of March
“The rest of the school year we usually prepare for next year’s competition,” Yang said.
The academic aspect
Compared to other academic clubs at DHS, Acadeca is one of the few that covers a wide range of information, according to McCormick.
“I think academic decathlon is something that’s really fun because you get to take tests and learn a lot about new topics that you might not learn in school,” said Vivian Xu, DHS sophomore and Academca captain.
Yang also values the academic information and skill he has acquired. He knows how to approach timed tests and study more effectively.
Regarding the subjective tests specifically, Yang gets nervous for the speech and interview tests. “But, through decathlon, because I’ve had more experience, I’ve gotten better throughout the years and I’ve become a little bit more comfortable in those kinds of situations,” he said.
The community aspect
When McCormick pops into the small groups studying over zoom, he sees that the students are “really helpful and friendly,” McCormcik said. Everyone has a voice and respects each other.
“We have that wide range [of student GPAs] and it’s cool to see all the different levels interacting,” McCormick said.
Xu appreciates the community support on the team. “Around competition season we get kind of stressed out […] but it’s definitely nice knowing since we’re all on a team we can rely on each other,” Xu said.
Yang has also appreciated his three year on the team. “It’s been fun. Being on the team for three years now, it’s been a very integral part of my high school experience,” Yang said.
Even during online school, the team has maintained a strong bond. “Especially this year virtually […] they’ve really come together and gelled as a team,” McCormick said.
Acadeca’s need for donations
Usually, Acadeca fundraises its money through events such as hosting trivia nights and working the Davis Farmers Market carousel. However, during the pandemic these events have not been possible.
“[This year, Acadeca has been] relying on parent donations, which are helpful but don’t quite get us where we need to be. We’re looking at a deficit of somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 to $800 this year, to finish out this year and […] get the resources we need for next year,” McCormick said.
The team’s expense of about $1,500 per year comes from purchasing the essential curriculum kits, which are study guides for the tests, and competition entry fees.
The team is reaching out to the community to ask for donations that will directly support the team. Anyone can donate at the DHS online store by clicking here.
The team is also always looking for new members to recruit, so anyone interested can contact the coach at firstname.lastname@example.org.