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Students Prepare For Aca Dec
Escalon High School students will head to the annual Academic Decathlon competition over the next couple of weekends and have been busy preparing for this event for months. Coach George Megenney recently sat down with The Times to review the team, the Aca Dec in general and the hopes for the 2013 event.

For this year's team, do you have a good mix of returning and new members?

I have a very healthy mix of new and returning members. Every year I am forced to say goodbye to seniors who have often contributed for several years to our team and have great experience; however on the flip side it's exciting to be able to welcome freshmen into our unique group and watch them interact and work with the seasoned "veterans." I'm particularly happy that this year we had a significant number of freshmen who joined up and who will hopefully continue on with Aca Dec in the years ahead.

What do you feel is the attraction of Academic Decathlon?

I think that every club or activity on campus has its own special and unique qualities that make it attractive to different groups. EHS is well known for its sports programs and our coaches are renowned for their team-building skills. As a rural school the need for and continued community support of our agricultural program through the FFA is both critical and time-honored. Academic Decathlon is a little less well known, though I'm terribly happy to have seen it grow over the past several years that I have had the honor of being coach. Our numbers have steadily increased over the years. In fact, this year's team is, as far as I know a record for EHS on a number of levels. We've got a total of 33 kids participating. We've got kids who will probably be the school's valedictorian on the team and we've got this year's Homecoming Queen as well. My group is diverse and not limited to the 'nerdy' types of kids that most students associate with the name "Academic Decathlon."

What do you enjoy about serving as coach for the team?

There are a number of different things that I enjoy about being the Aca Dec coach. Five periods out of the day I do my best to teach Spanish at every level of competence. During our Reading Period, I get to stretch my teaching legs and dive into some history, literature, science, economics, art, music, help kids develop their speaking skills, present interesting documentaries and films, organize movie weekends, and organize study sessions with a fair amount of pizza and fizzy soda (a shout out to Pizza Plus for their continued support of our team). It's a pleasure to see kids take an interest in learning about topics and subjects that are outside of the regular school curriculum and build some school spirit at the same time.

How long has the team been preparing and what has the schedule been like?

We start our schedule at very end of the previous school year when we receive the study materials for the upcoming school year. I arrange a meeting schedule for the summer months with those students who are willing and able to meet and we get together at Pizza Plus and share some pizza and drinks while studying the information in the voluminous binder given to us by the County Office of Education. The more information that we can digest during the summer, the less we have to try to move through during the Fall and early Spring semesters. Once the school year begins and new recruits are given their basic orientation, we normally start by making our way through the different sections of the binder one at a time. We normally begin with literature, then move on to history, then science, art and music will follow and so on. In November I have to start thinking about forming my starting team by selecting students who I think would put in their best efforts not only at studying the different topics, but also at delivering a prepared speech, an impromptu speech and being interviewed. T-Shirts are normally designed in between those events as well and then we all journey to competition and do our best to show our school spirit and academic know-how.

Do the team members 'recruit' their peers from year to year to join in or do you just send out an all call for potential members?

I recruit from year to year by two methods: I personally ask students enrolled in my classes who I have had an opportunity to observe over a period of time to join our team and I ask students who are currently participating to encourage friends who they think would be good team mates to inquire about joining up.

The starting team consists of nine students will be traveling to the San Joaquin County Office of Education on Saturday, Jan. 26 to compete in the areas of prepared speech, impromptu speech, essay writing and they will also be interviewed by a panel of judges.

Starters this year are, Sage Gabba, Casey Pettitt, and Anastassya Zack, Honors Level; Emily Berry, Joseph Fernandes and Bryan Guillen, Scholastic Level; Kelly Brown, Giovanni Hermosillo and Mystic Madrid, Varsity Level.

On Saturday, Feb. 2, the second half of Aca Dec will see all team members participate in tests and the starters will compete in the Super Quiz portion of the 2013 Academic Decathlon.