High school teams prep for the 52nd annual Orange County Academic Decathlon

Hundreds of students from more than 40 local high schools are getting ready to compete for team honors and individual glory at the 52nd annual Orange County Academic Decathlon.

The event is set to take place over two consecutive Saturdays starting this weekend. The top-performing teams will advance to the California Academic Decathlon in March.

Students cheer on their favorite teams during the action-packed Super Quiz Relay, which marks the final event of the Academic Decathlon.

“Academic Decathlons go far beyond demonstrating content knowledge,” says OCDE Coordinator Kristin Rigby. “These events promote preparation, communication and teamwork, encouraging students to become more connected at school and instilling the kinds of skills that will help them thrive in college, in their future careers and in life.”

Presented by the Orange County Academic Decathlon Association and OCDE, this year’s decathlon is supported by the contributions of community members and 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.

Decathletes will begin the communications portion of the event on Saturday, Jan. 25 by presenting prepared and impromptu speeches, participating in personal interviews, and writing essays. Approximately 150 community volunteers will assist by serving as speech and interview judges.

One week later, on Feb. 1, participants will take 30-minute multiple-choice tests in the subject areas of art, economics, literature, mathematics, music, science and social science. Excluding math, each test will incorporate the 2020 theme, “In Sickness and in Health: An Exploration of Illness and Wellness.”

The second day of the competition will culminate with the Super Quiz Relay, a high-energy contest that resembles a quiz show and sounds like a sporting event, with parents and classmates boisterously cheering their favorite squads from the sidelines. The Super Quiz Relay is open to the public and will take place at 2:45 p.m. in the Westminster High School gymnasium, located at 14325 Goldenwest St. in Westminster.

Founded in 1968 by former Orange County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Peterson, Academic Decathlons are 10-event scholastic contests staged at the county, state and national levels. Nine-member teams compete for the highest scores on multiple-choice exams, speeches, interviews and essay assignments.

Each team 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). Competitions conclude with the Super Quiz Relay, which always takes place in front of a live audience.

On average, Orange County decathletes report spending 20 to 25 hours a week preparing for the Academic Decathlon. About 10 of those hours involve working with coaches and teammates during after-school meetings; the remaining practice time is spent studying alone or with teammates outside of school.

Top honors, medals and scholarships will be awarded at the OCAD Awards Ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 7 in the Robert B. Moore Theater at Orange Coast College.