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EHS Students Prepare For Brain Challenge
Now in his fourth year of coaching the Academic Decathlon team at Escalon High School, teacher George Megenney said this year's group is the largest yet and he is looking for a solid performance in the academic arena.

The students have been hitting the books for months, meeting daily in the school's late morning reading period, as well as regularly scheduled sessions outside of the school day.

"We have over 30 participating this year," Megenney said. "It has grown each year in the four years I've been in charge. I'm glad to see that."

Participants come from a diverse cross section of the student body and all are aiming to bring some recognition to the school through their brainpower. All students can take part in the tests for individual medals, while the 'starting nine' compete for both school and individual honors.

Megenney said he feels the topic "plays some role" in encouraging students to take part and this year's theme focuses on American history and the Great Depression.

"I make an effort to try and engage kids that might be a positive influence on the team," Megenney noted of 'recruiting' for AcaDec. "Especially in my class, if I think they will enjoy it, I approach them. A lot of kids join."

His first year coaching, the starting team was made up of strictly juniors and seniors. This year, the nine scoring team members include one freshman and two sophomores among the group, a trend that Megenney said bodes well for the future of the program.

Three-year team members Shannon Montgomery and Taylor Huntley, both seniors, agreed that though it is a lot of work, the payoff is worth it.

"It's a workout for the mind," Huntley said.

"You have the possibility of winning medals," added Montgomery. "It's an incentive to do well."

The first year the two were involved, as sophomores, Escalon won the small schools title and took second overall. They are hoping this year's team can bring the small school honor back to EHS.

Montgomery said she has prepared more for the subjects she is most comfortable with, choosing to focus on music and literature in hopes of bringing home some medals in those categories.

Huntley said she initially got involved because some friends had taken part and enjoyed it. Now, she just likes the idea of learning more and said anyone can benefit from the program.

"If you like learning new things, this gets more in depth," Huntley explained. "I think it's better to learn more than just a tiny particle."

The first day of competition, Jan. 29, features only the starters competing in essays, interviews and prepared and impromptu speeches, while the entire team attends the Feb. 5 event, taking a battery of tests and then cheering on the team in the Super Quiz competition.

Topic for the Super Quiz is Earth Science - the Dust Bowl.

Sophomore Victor Alvarado joined AcaDec this year, after being recruited by Megenney.

"I thought it was going to be easy ... it's not that easy," he admitted. "But I've learned things that I wouldn't have learned yet and it's fun."

Megenney said teacher Rick Heflin has been a big help in preparing students and he also thanked Pizza Plus for offering discounts on pizza for the group's regular study sessions.

Starters will head to UOP for their first day of competition on Jan. 29, with UOP also the destination on Feb. 5 for the multiple choice tests, then the Super Quiz competition at the Scottish Rite Auditorium in Stockton.

This year's starters are Sage Gabba, Casey Pettitt, Anastassya, Honors; Emma Baumhauer, Samantha Little, Keven Jones, Scholastic; John Curtoni, Evan Nassano, Roy Stephens, Varsity.