Education

University High earns second consecutive Academic Decathlon title

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

While the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens battled it out in the Super Dome last weekend, Valley high school students competed in a Super Bowl of their Own. Only their contest wasn't a competition of physical strength, but rather academic strength.

On Saturday, 23 county high schools gathered at Central East High School in Fresno for the 31st annual Academic Decathlon.

"That is the real super event this weekend. It's certainly not the Super Bowl," said Fresno County Deputy Superintendent Jim Yovino.

The Academic Decathlon teams were comprised of three "A" students, three "B" students, and three "C" students, who compete in ten examinations: art, music, language and literature, mathematics, economics, speech, interview, essay, science, social science, and the final culminating Super Quiz. Each area carried a maximum value of 1,000 points.

For a second year in row, University High School took home the top score with 50,629.6 points.

"No school besides Roosevelt and Edison have ever won consecutive county championships, and so that was our big challenge," said University High School Coach Sean Canfield. "We won it in 2010, then Edison High took it back in 2011 and then we won it last year."

Canfield said his team worked long hours to prepare, often showing up for school at 8am and staying until 8pm to read a large binder full of information the students could potentially be tested on.

"We started last spring, and went through summer, then the fall," he said. "We worked Friday nights, Saturdays, and met through winter Break. It's extraordinarily difficult and the dedication, determination is inspiring."

Senior Sam Barretto said before joining the team, he was at one time, intimidated by the information he was expected to know.

"I remember being a freshman and seeing people carry these huge binders and I had no idea why someone would want to put themselves through that ordeal. Now, it's just another challenge to face," he said.

This year's team included two first-time participants, who not only helped the team perform well, but achieved the competition's two highest scores. Senior Chris Gu and junior Rosamond Herling said they wanted to participate on the academic decathlon team after seeing how well University High School competed in the past.

"I really saw how dedicated everyone was from academic decathlon and wanted to be part of the tradition," said Gu. " I was naturally un-coordinated and more bookish so reading for tests rather than shooting a ball or catching one is so much easier for me."

Herling agreed.

"I've been in Science Olympiad for the past two years and I saw Academic Decathlon with all their gleaming medals and I thought it would be fun to try and step it up and take on a larger challenge, not just science, but all of the other events as well," she said.

Now that the team placed first in Fresno County, it will now head to the State Academic Decathlon in Sacramento in March. If it performs well there, it will move on the Virtual National Championship later in the year. And if it wins the small school category, it will be the team's seventh consecutive National Championship title.

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