by Asami Nelson
Every morning at Reedley High School, before the sun rises above the football stadium, the students of Academic Decathlon are on campus working diligently to study for their yearly competition. Academic Decathlon is a nationwide contest in which Decathletes are tested in seven areas, along with giving two speeches and having an interview. Ranging from Freshman to Senior, these students read and discuss a wide variety of subjects, which include: art, music, social science, literature, economics, mathematics, and science. These seven areas of focus are all related to a core topic that is changed every year. This year it is the 1960s. Previous topics have been India and Africa. Students at RHS get approximately six months to master every one of these subjects, and are tested on what is called Practice Day.
Furthermore, participants are required to create their own original speech of three to four minutes in length; their speech score is cancelled if they exceed this time limit. The Decathletes present their speeches in front of three or four judges who will each score them. After the prepared speech, the student will give an impromptu speech. The student is given a piece of paper with three or four questions regarding what the one to two minute speech will be about. After the impromptu speech, the Decathlete will be interviewed by several people. All three of these events will be taking place on the Competition Day, and every students will be expected to dress professionally.
To prepare for these numerous tests, on Practice Day the Decathletes take a total of seven tests, each based on the individual subjects. Each Decathlete’s score is added up to a total score, with the highest points possible on each test being 1,000. The total points from every subject determine the overall score for the individual student, with the maximum being 10,000 points—a perfect score. There are three different teams competing in the Super Quiz, a contest involving questions about every one of the seven subjects. The first team, known as the Honors team, contains A-level students with a G.P.A. of 4.00. The second team is the Scholastic team with B-level students, and the Varsity team is C-level students. A student’s average GPA from the previous year and their score on Practice Day determines if they will be on the team. Additionally, there is a team of Alternates, who fill in for a Decathlete on any team if they are unable to attend the Super Quiz.The coach for Acadec this year is Rene Curwick, a Spanish teacher at RHS, who has been teaching and supervising the program for several years. She always strives to advise and motivate her students to work hard and aids any Decathlete who has trouble comprehending the material. To help the Decathletes understand the play for this year, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” English teacher Elizabeth Hardcastle arrives early in the morning every Tuesday to discuss the play. Her assistance has improved Decathletes’ scores greatly, and it is always an honor to have Mrs. Hardcastle attend the Super Quiz.
Overall, the program helps students gain practice with real life situations, such as public speaking and interviews. Decathletes challenge themselves to expand their minds with new knowledge and, in turn, are honored with not only medals, trophies, and rewards, but also friends, memories, and a great high school experience.