Decathlon Earns 4th State Berth


Decathletes celebrate around their 1st place trophy. This is the 4th consecutive time Campolindo’s Academic Decathlon has won the county competition.

Sarada Symonds, Editor-in-Chief

Academic Decathlon teams gathered in the Sequoia Middle School Gym on Wednesday, February 5, eager to hear the results of the East Bay Regionals announced. Since March of 2013, squads have been practicing and competing in the World War I themed academic contests intended to determine the eventual county representatives to the state championships.

After the building of suspense with the announcement of several individual awards, it was revealed that Campolindo’s Red team would represent Contra Costa County at the Statewide Competition for the 4th consecutive season. Acalanes finished in 2nd, and Campolindo’s Blue team claimed 3rd place.

The Cougars’ Red and Blue squads placed 1st and 2nd in the Super Quiz, respectively.

Members of the Red and Blue teams took the Essay portion of the competition on January 9, during 7th period and after school.

Decathletes competed in the Speech and Interview competitions at the Cal State East Bay campus on January 25.

Finally, having completed the Subjective subjects, competitors went to Los Medanos College to take tests on Art, Music, Language and Literature, Math, Economics, Science, and Social Science a week later on February 1. Students also competed in a Super Quiz, which required them to answer questions in front of an audience. Campolindo’s two teams were each comprised of 9 members, as well as several alternates and guests, competing in Honors, Scholastic, and Varsity divisions.

For senior Zach Scherer, who competes in the Honors division, it will be his 4th time at the State competition. According to Scherer, the Academic Decathlon program has grown each year, with over 30 current members.  The squad earned 67 awards at the Regional competition. “Since my freshman year, we’ve become much more competitive, and the results show it,” Scherer said.

Coach Paul Verbanzsky was both “amazingly surprised” and “excited” about the win. “Winning county 4 years in a row is surreal,” he said.

According to Scherer, the preparation for this year’s competition was the most strenuous yet, but it all paid off. “I’m looking forward to going back and, hopefully, doing well,” he said.

Senior Christoph Steefel felt that this victory demonstrates how strong the program is, especially after being named Division III National Champions last year. “It really solidifies what we’ve done and shows it wasn’t a fluke,” he said.

Team captain Tristan Caro was proud of the team’s accomplishments this year, praising both Red and Blue team’s performance. “Everyone really went above and beyond my expectations,” he said.

This year, the team also faced competition from Acalanes. The Dons won several medals, often tying for 1st place with Campolindo students. According to Verbanzsky, the Acalanes team did an incredible job. “They really gave us a run for our money,” he said.

The 1st event of the state qualification process was in early January, and the announcement of the scores was a welcome conclusion. “It’s a relief because of how hard we worked. We worked really hard, and now we’re ready to work even harder,” said senior Vikram Bhaduri.

Students from both Red and Blue teams won individual awards in several categories. Senior Marina Han and Bhaduri both won top individual scores in their division. Junior William Coates was the top guest in his division, and sophomore Ann Cherayil and senior Adam Lin were the top alternates.

With the exception of co-captain Uma Gaffney, the Red team is composed entirely of seniors. Initially, there was some worry about whether the team would be able to maintain focus as many of the seniors juggled the demands of the college application process with their participation in Academic Decathlon. “Having a mostly senior team, preparation was bumpy, but they focused when it was really necessary,” Verbansky said.

In previous years, the competition was called the Contra Costa Academic Decathlon competition, but it was changed this year to East Bay Regionals to represent the schools that were not from the county.

The essay portion of the competition was moved to January 9, whereas it had previously been held the day of the Speech and Interview portions of the competition. This allowed volunteers to spend more time reviewing the essays before scoring them.

Students took the essay exam at their respective schools. Campolindo competitors were monitored by teacher Carol Paymer.

Other minor changes included the structure of Super Quiz. The county hopes to make the regional competition more formal so that it better emulates the experience students will have at State. This is also the 1st year the competition has had a “Perpetual Trophy”.

The club has officially been preparing since September, when they started meeting after school Mondays and Thursdays, as well as for 2 hours on Sundays. Students also studied on their own and read the novel The Sun Also Rises, the selected literature for this year’s theme.

Now, the team will focus on preparing for the State Competition on March 21-23 in Sacramento. According to assistant team captain Uma Gaffney, the team will continue to meet after school and on weekends. Preparation will now be “more intensive”.

Several team members are returning to state, and Verbansky hopes to repeat last year’s performance.

“I’m really happy to be going again,” said Steefel.