Achieving AcaDec

Lake Ridge’s Academic Decathlon Team placed 10th in the state in a recent tournament.

Ryley Anthony, ENN Staff

The Academic Decathlon is a team competition where students immerse themselves into the conceptual and creative aspects of their abilities. Students are tested in ten categories: Art, economics, essay, interview, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, social science and speech. Lake Ridge’s very own AcaDec team placed 10th in the state in their latest tournament. Academic Decathlon Coach and UIL academic sponsor, Brandon Austin, further explains what AcaDec is and the layout of the team’s latest competition. 

“At the state tournament, there are 10 events including a speech, an interview, an essay, and seven objective tests. There is a game show portion called, Super Quiz. It doesn’t count for points, but it’s a prestige thing that students get to do in front of a crowd. It’s pretty cool. I get to take nine kids to the tournament. Three honors kids, (kids that make straight A’s) three scholastic kids, (kids that make A’s and B’s) and three varsity kids, (kids that make A’s, B’s, and C’s),” said Austin. 

Preparing for an AcaDec competition can be challenging. Not only do students have to practice their individual topics, but they also have to decipher ways to connect their constructive ideas and talents in order to perform in a collaborative manner. Senior, Austin Turner, discusses how he worked independently to prepare for the competition, however he felt most confident after combining ideas with his teammates. 

“Whenever I was at home, I was studying. During some classes when I had down time, I’d look at some of the material and would work on memorizing my speeches. Even at work, sometimes I would go over my speeches and tweak information if I had time. As a team after making it past Regionals, we looked at our spots and worked on subjects collectively. We would study as a group not only during school, but outside of school as well,” said Turner. 

Going into the tournament, the honors, scholastic, and varsity kids deemed it important to set personal goals regarding their studying methods and performance. However, multiple students on the team claim that it was coordinating collective goals as a group that led them to a top spot in the state’s AcaDec ranking. Senior, Samantha Wren, explained the process of preparing as a team and how it strengthened their performance.

“We all had a group chat where we shared resources. We studied together during classes when we had the chance. We met with Miss Nealy as a group to get advice on speeches and other content. This year’s group was one of the closer knit groups compared to other academic groups. We got along pretty well, we were great about encouraging one another and making jokes of problems when we had them. Our relationship and team effort really aided our win,” said Wren. 

It’s common for athletes to feel pre-game jitters. When competing, it’s natural to feel a little nervous. Your heart may begin to intensely pound in your chest, your palms may pool with sweat, and your mind may overflow with the excitement of a possible win. Those who exercise the brain experience the same smothering nervousness when faced with a fierce competitor. Junior John Dunlap, won several medals during the tournament including first place in music, first place in literature, first place in social science, third overall, and even scholarship money. However even though he reached a great amount of success, he admits the anxiety he felt when entering the tournament.

“I was a complete nervous wreck. At one point the judges messed up our scores on the scoreboard, so I only saw half of the points I received. That made me believe I was doing a terrible job. Then when the award ceremony came around, for the first six events Lake Ridge didn’t receive any awards because of the mistakes with the scoreboard. I overcame my nervousness during the test portion. I felt anxious going into the testing room, but when I began testing I felt more confident and was able to calm down,” said Dunlap. 

Many students who went to compete at the tournament, beforehand, arranged goals in order to achieve success and focus on a purpose. They developed objectives first independently then as a team, to make sure their intentions for the tournament were aligned. Turner elaborated on how the team discovered each person’s strengths and worked them into a variety of events. 

“We had certain people on our team that we knew were capable of scoring above a 5000, so we pointed them out and worked with them specifically. We had a kid who was very talented with art, so we asked him to help us prep with that artistic element of the tournament. We learned new things from all types of people in the AcaDec group,” said Turner. 

Even after placing 10th in the state, the AcaDec team still feels they have room for improvement. As a team they discussed  how they can place higher in the future. Senior, Kaley Ngo, acknowledges that she is a senior and this was her last year competing on the AcaDec team, but knows it’s important to help underclassmen take the team to the next level in upcoming years.

“I want to make sure the alternates and underclassmen are prepared for the next tournaments in the future. Those who attended this tournament definitely got a good insight on how the competition works and the people they need to surround themselves around to reach success,” said Ngo. 

Although placing 10th and receiving multiple medals was memorable and exciting for the team, several students agreed that what will be remembered and valued the most, are the enjoyable moments they spent with one another outside of the competitive setting. Dunlap, described the time the team spent relaxing and regrouping after the tournament.

“On Saturday we had a free day after competing. We were spending the weekend in a hotel, so we spent our free time visiting each other’s rooms and hanging out. We built a fort out of blankets, which was really fun. I’m not gonna lie, some things in the hotel room broke! We went up and down on the elevators. We were just being silly and having a great time with another. It was amazing to experience that as a team,” said Dunlap.