by Kristalyn Patzkowski
If you were to walk up to any one of my friends or classmates at Reedley High School and asked them to describe me they would probably say that I’m a nerd. As disturbing as that answer might first appear to be, it’s quite accurate! I am a NERD!!! In fact the majority of my day consists of school, homework, and other factors that play a role in my academic career, and I’m the happiest when I’m in a classroom! With all that being said, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that the extracurricular activity that I decided to take part in this year is a club all about school: Academic Decathlon!
Academic Decathlon truly is the extra-curricular activity designed for students who enjoy school. At the beginning of the school year, each member receives a three inch binder filled with information about that given year’s topic, and this year’s topic was the Great Depression! For the next few months, we prepared to take exams and interviews, recite speeches, write essays, and compete in Super Quiz. All of which were parts of the two Saturday competitions.
Our first competition day, which took place at Fresno University, was focused on each individual’s performance, meaning that every member of Academic Decathlon had to prepare a three-to-four-minute speech, partake in an impromptu speech, take an interview, and write an essay from the English information we had received. Prior to this competition day, each of us students was required to write speech, in which the topics were fairly open. Students from our school wrote about awkwardness, procrastination, personal experiences, just to name a few.
Our next step was to revise and edit our speeches and fit them into the time constraint. This must have been a tedious job for her, but Frau Hutchinson did an excellent job helping each of us students! Soon we all had our speeches ready, and some of us memorized them to speak in front of the judges.
Immediately following our speeches, each student had to give an impromptu speech. Might I tell you, though, the thing that makes impromptu speeches difficult is that we are given very little time to prepare. We don’t know how the subjects will range until we are asked by the judges to flip over the paper, and even then, we are only given a minute to mentally come up with ideas on how to present our topic. Then we are given about a minute and half to deliver the actual speech! Believe me when I say that it feels like your brain has been temporarily shut off!
Luckily, interviews last more than a minute! In fact, each interview lasts roughly around seven minutes, and the judges for the interviews are not the same as those for the speeches. These new judges asked us about ourselves, our plans for our futures, and a few irrelevant questions. Overall, though, I think I did well, on my interview. After lunch, every student had to write an essay about the English material. The thing that there is to say about that is if you are ever planning to be in Academic Decathlon, read your materials—it really is beneficial to you!
Our second day of competitions was the day of the actual exams and Super Quiz, and it took place at Clovis East High School. Prior to this day, each of us Academic Decathlon members had been distributed into three divisions based on our grades: Varsity (0.00—2.99 GPA), Scholastic (3.00-3.74 GPA), and Honors (3.75-4.0 GPA). Within the Honors team, there were three more divisions: A, B, and C, with “A” being the highest and “C” being the lowest. Placements in these divisions were pre-determined by the scores from practice day, and determined the level of difficulty for each contestant during the Super Quiz competition. Every member of Academic Decathlon had to take the written tests, but only the Honors team could compete in the Super Quiz competition. Taking into consideration that I had been placed in division A of the Honors team for my first year in Academic Decathlon, it isn’t surprising that I was astonished by what I was about to experience!
Super Quiz was the last competition of the day, but it also happened to be the most exciting and nerve-wrenching event. For the nine of us that were on Honors team, we were separated from the rest of members who were not going to compete. Then all competing members from every school in the Fresno district were taken into the back of the gym at Clovis East high school and lined up. One school at a time, we all proceeded into the gym and marched around the center of the “floor”. Super Quiz was about to begin!
There were three different rounds, and those of us who weren’t competing in the first round sat in the bleachers. All Team C members had to be in the first round and they answered ten easy-level questions. Next, the Team C members switched roles with the members of the B Team. Then the B Team answered ten medium-level questions. Finally, it was time for Team A to step on the floor! I was scared out of my mind, but my teammates Kyle Kowagoa and Michelle Ito were calm and collected, to say the least. We all walked up to our designated area and picked up the test. The head proctor said, “After I read the first question, you will have seven seconds to answer it.” That’s how it was for all ten of our questions. There were two adults who sat by Kyle, Michelle, and me to keep track of our scores. When we were all done, they said to us, “You all did a great job!” … With that, the competition was over!
The awards ceremony took place later that night, and lots of people showed up! Noncompeting team members sat in the bleachers with all the parents, but competing team members sat in the middle of the gym, yet again. There were a couple of guest speakers and a few students recited their winning speeches out loud for the whole audience. Gold, silver, and bronze medals were handed out, and the excitement in the gym was like nothing I had ever experienced before! A few students from our team won medals and we all celebrated. It was surely a night to remember!
But the single medal that hung from my neck–the Coach’s Choice Medal–was not what I had been most excited about. Rather it was that my experience in Academic Decathlon resulted in my new confidence and ability to recite a speech that I was passionate about. It was the fact that I had met some new friends along my way. It was having pride that people acknowledged that education is the base of our nation’s future. It is the certainty that next year, I will dedicate myself to Academic Decathlon again!