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EHS Decathlon Honors
Bringing home some hardware, gold, silver and bronze, the Escalon High School Academic Decathlon team picked up some honors as part of the annual countywide competition this year.

The San Joaquin County Academic Decathlon was staged over two weekends, Jan. 26 and Feb. 2, with the awards ceremony hosted later, honors presented on Wednesday, Feb. 6.

"Our Academic Decathlon team earned some recognition for Escalon High School," said coach George Megenney. "We took home a total of seven medals in various categories."

Leading the way was one of the team's many alternates, Maggie Casteel, who won two medals.

"She got a second place medal in the essay category and a first place medal in science," Megenney noted. "Our starting team took home five medals this year."

Starters earning honors were Geovanni Hermosillo, who earned three medals, third place at the varsity level in math, music and literature; Emily Berry with a second place silver medal in the scholastic category in speech; and Anastassya Zack, who earned a bronze third place medal in the honors division in speech.

"My topic was 'The sexual objectification of women in advertising'," Zack explained of her prepared speech at the competition. "It was exactly three minutes and 30 seconds."

Even though it was a prepared speech, rather than the impromptu, Zack said it still was a nerve-wracking experience.

"Oh goodness, yes," she said, smiling. "The person in front of me was late so I had to wait."

That just added to the jitters, but she was able to overcome them to earn the medal.

All this year's medal winners for the Cougars are juniors, and will likely be back next year to do battle again.

Hermosillo, who was the top medal winner with his trio of bronze honors, said he enjoyed the music category the most, especially one of the pieces he had to identify that "sounded like monks singing." To steady his nerves, he enjoyed spinning in an office chair, he said, which also allowed him to focus.

First year participant Berry said her speech dealt with getting kids involved in exercise for their mind and body health. She is involved with the Tiny Tiger program as part of the ATA, American Taekwondo Association, and said that has helped her with discipline and also was a springboard for her speech.

"I'm proud of the leadership program (through ATA)," Berry noted of her involvement with the organization, and works with the 3- to 5-year-olds in that capacity.

For Casteel, who earned the team's highest honor with her gold medal, she said choosing a topic she enjoys was key in winning the top prize in essay.

"I chose a topic about the Project Mercury program," she said, noting that she is interested in the space race and wants to study to be an aeronautical engineer.

As far as calming her nerves before competing, Casteel said she took "deep breaths" and just tried to relax.

All four medal winners said they enjoyed the experience and will be looking to recruit new team members for next year's Academic Decathlon squad.