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Brain Game Students Gear Up For AcaDec Contests
Learning everything they could possibly ever want to know - and more -about the French Revolution, the cramming is almost over for a group of Escalon High School students.

The Academic Decathlon team is getting ready for battle and will put their brains, not brawn, to the test in competition with other high schools from around San Joaquin County in the annual event.

"Jan. 30 is the first day, that will be for the starters, when they give their speeches, both prepared and impromptu, do interviews and write essays," said AcaDec coach George Megenney, back for a third year with the team.

The following Saturday, Feb. 6, will see the entire team compete, with multiple choice tests in a variety of areas in addition to the audience-friendly 'Super Quiz' competition at University of the Pacific in Stockton.

There will be tests in math, art, language and literature, music, science, economics, capped off with the Super Quiz.

Each school district has a nine-member starting team, drawn from three different grade point levels, providing a cross section of students. Escalon starters are Pearl Rivers, Jennifer Shipley and Joel Alcaraz, Honors; Cara Davis, Anthony Stratos and Evan Vance, Scholastic; Jose Gutierrez, Curtis Miller and Roy Stephens, Varsity.

Megenney said it takes dedication from the students to be a part of AcaDec, since they have to work their way through pages and pages of material to learn about the featured theme, which this year is the French Revolution, and have to find time to study and work together around all the other activities they are involved with on campus and in the community.

"The challenge that I face, I'm often sharing them (students) with AP classes or student government ... I only see them once in a while," Megenney explained.

Reading period at the school each day is set aside as class time for AcaDec, but not all students are there for every class, depending on other school activities occurring.

Regardless, Megenney said the students taking part in AcaDec are those that want the challenge and will rise to it.

"We've also been meeting Fridays after school, two or three hours, depending on the stamina of the kids," he said.

And despite all the time it requires, Megenney said he is happy to take on the extra duties.

"I wouldn't do it if I didn't enjoy it," he said.

Anxious to take part this year is senior Cara Davis, who was working on her prepared speech during a recent class period.

"It's just more of a challenge for me, I guess," she said of getting involved in AcaDec.

Noting that she has done many plays and is comfortable on stage, she wasn't too concerned about having to give a speech. But, she added, learning the ins and outs of the French Revolution and keeping up with the study schedule was a different story.

"It's only 726 pages you have to memorize," she said with a smile. "Not too bad."

Teammate Emma Baumhauer will go with the full AcaDec squad for the second Saturday, taking part in the wide variety of tests.

"It's real fun if you make it fun," she said.

Last year, the AcaDec team came home with first place honors in the Small Schools Division and second place overall.

"The kids came back with more medals than I could count," Megenney said, adding that he feels this year's team is also ready to make its mark. "We have bright kids and we hope they do well."