We’re going to go ahead and say yes, and that Woodbridge High School just did it, winning its fourth straight Orange County Academic Decathlon championship on Friday.
With the victory comes an automatic bid to the California Academic Decathlon for the Irvine Unified campus, which, if we’re sticking with sports analogies, has become nothing short of a decathlon dynasty in recent years.
“I strongly believe the success of the Woodbridge Academic Decathlon program is due to the ‘Gold Standards’ established for the team,” coach Mike Nakaue said afterward. “We set high goals, trust each other, are committed to one another and believe in our teammates.”
“We accept the challenges of the Academic Decathlon competition and expect the highest level of performance with no excuses,” he added. “Our mantra is ‘Keep improving.'”
Four OC schools advance
Woodbridge students were naturally in a celebratory mood at Friday night’s OCAD Awards Ceremony, which took place in the Robert B. Moore Theater at Orange Coast College. And they weren’t the only ones exchanging high-fives and embraces.
Dozens of individual and team medals were dished out to top performers, and three other Orange County schools learned they would also be advancing to the state finals based on their team scores.
Trabuco Hills High School in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District, Westminster High School in the Huntington Beach Union High School District and Valencia High School in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District earned wildcard bids after placing among California’s best.
“I’m so proud of our decathletes again this year — I always am,” said OCDE Coordinator Kristin Rigby. “These students work so hard to prepare for decathlon on top of their regular schoolwork. And the curriculum is very challenging. Our students are definitely developing grit.”
The Warriors, which placed eighth at last year’s California Academic Decathlon, will be making their ninth straight appearance at the state finals.
“Our goal at CAD is to do our best in representing Orange County,” Nakaue said. “We will respect our opponents with humility and will demonstrate the highest level of sportsmanship. With about 70 schools competing, a top 10 finish would be very gratifying.”
Along with Nakaue, the Woodbridge team is coached by Shan Wu and John Tezak and features students Zion Gassner, Melissa Tsaowimonsiri, Snigdha Saha, Lithika Karthikeyan, Vishnu Menon, Olivia Kim, Manmeet Singh, Malik Lawal and Timothy Nguyen, along with three alternates.
Here’s a breakdown of the top Orange County teams by division, with each team’s overall score:
First place: Woodbridge High, Irvine Unified School District, 52,007.1
Second place: Trabuco Hills High, Saddleback Valley Unified School District, 45,652.0
Third place: Westminster High, Huntington Beach Union High School District, 45,155.2
Fourth place: Valencia High, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, 45,154.2
Fifth place: University High, Irvine Unified School District, 40,585.4
First place: San Juan Hills High, Capistrano Unified School District, 37,261.7
Second place: Pacifica High, Garden Grove Unified School District, 35,613.2
Third place: Servite High, a Catholic college preparatory high school, 35,359.0
Fourth place: Fairmont Prep High, a private high school in Anaheim, 35,218.8
Fifth place: Sonora High, Fullerton Joint Union High School District, 34,876.5
First place: Beckman High, Tustin Unified School District, 34,530.2
Second place: Santiago High, Garden Grove Unified School District, 31,476.1
Third place: Northwood High, Irvine Unified School District, 30,589.3
Fourth place: Savanna High, Anaheim Union High School District, 28,607.2
Fifth place: Bolsa Grande High, Garden Grove Unified School District, 28,359.3
A decathlon of studies
The Academic Decathlon was established in 1968 by former Orange County Superintendent Dr. Robert Peterson, who came up with the idea of “a decathlon of studies” while he was a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. At the county, state and national levels, nine-member teams compete for the highest scores on multiple-choice exams, speeches, interviews and essay assignments.
Decathlon teams must include three “Honor” students (those with GPAs of 3.75 or above), three “Scholastic” students (GPAs of 3.00 to 3.74) and three “Varsity” students (GPAs of 2.99 or below). Each contest culminates with the action-packed the Super Quiz Relay in front of a live audience.
Presented by the Orange County Academic Decathlon Association and OCDE, the 52nd annual decathlon was supported by sponsors including Del Taco Restaurants, NuVision Federal Credit Union, the Orange County Register, Aeries Software, Frontline Education, Applied Medical, Disney VoluntEARs, Mind Research and Achieve3000. The theme was “In Sickness and in Health: An Exploration of Illness and Wellness.”
Building skills for college
Rigby, who has helped organize the Orange County Academic Decathlon for each of the last 15 years, said she enjoys catching up with former students on competition days.
“I spoke with one alumni this year who graduated from high school eight years ago,” she said. “He came to volunteer and found me at the end of the day to share about how important decathlon was for him. He said it was the most important part of his high school career, sharing that he learned so many skills that helped him in college.”
“I have heard this over and over from alumni,” Rigby said. “The teamwork, time management, critical thinking and communication skills students develop as they participate in academic decathlon are invaluable for college success.”
The California Academic Decathlon is set to take place March 26-29 in Sacramento. The national championships will be held April 30 through May 2 in Anchorage, Alaska. For more information, visit OCDE’s Academic Decathlon 101 webpage.