AcDec off to successful start

Senior+Jacob+Castro+practices+his+speech+during+class.+%28Photo+by+Abigail+Thomas%29

Senior Jacob Castro practices his speech during class. (Photo by Abigail Thomas)

Abigail Thomas , Staff Writer/Photo Editor

Academic Decathlon (AcDec) has ranked six out of eight against different teams across the state at their last meet at Highland Park last month.
“I had to work my tail off to prepare for this contest. There is no feeling quite like winning. It’s a great feeling, knowing that you have made yourself, your coaches, and your team proud,” senior Alec Chen said.
Senior Alec Chen won third overall in the honors division at the Highland Park meet. He also won first place in math, second place in music, fourth place in science, fourth place language/literature, second place in economics and first place in art.
Karen Chen, junior, won fourth place in math, third place in language/ literature, third place in art, and fifth place in science.
Katherine Lei, junior, won third place in math, first place in science, second place in art, and fourth place social science.
Katherine Lei, junior, won third place in science, while Kathryn Brooks, senior, won first place in art, and Nicole Nnadi, senior, won fourth place in art.
These students make up the honors team, while scholastic team members Michael Schlottman, senior, won second place in art and fourth place in social science. Brian Daugherty, senior, won second place in social science.
Connor Tallent, a senior on the varsity team, won second place in math.
AcDec is an AP course that consists of about 30 students. Between 12-14 students are chosen to continue the course through the spring semester. The teams are made up of nine students and four alternates.
Students involved in AcDec have been preparing for their meets during the summer and since the first week of school. They prepare by taking 100 question quizzes that cover very specific sections of the resource guides, in order to be successfully prepared for the meet. Resource guides are study books that include all the material that the students use to know what they will be quizzed on at the meets.
“I would say memorizing the material is a pretty big obstacle. It is a lot of stuff. Lots of names, lots of dates, lots of vocab,” Chen said.
Students in AcDec spend at least an hour a night studying for competitions as well as trying to fit in other class homework and extracurriculars.
There are seven different topics that they are quizzed over at the meets. The subjects include math, science, literature, social science, art, music and economics. This year’s main topic is World War II.
“The first meet at Rockwall on Oct. 29 was an eye opener for us. We did not have any competition experience before this meet, and competing against so many other students really motivated us to train harder,” Xia said.
Meets typically last from eight in the morning until four in the afternoon. The teams arrive to the school they will compete at. They take 50 question tests in their category in the time of 30 minutes throughout the day for each category.
This is Shannon Reczek’s third year and Sheila Holsinger’s second year teaching Academic Decathlon. They organize tutors in math, economics, music and speech that are available twice a week on a weekly basis. They provide study aids in the form of exercise books, powerpoints and an online system that allows students to compete against other students nationwide.
“Our coaches are amazing at helping us reach our full potential and supporting the team as a whole. At meets they make sure everyone is prepared for the tests and keep us calm, focused, and they provide awesome snacks,” Brooks said.
There are three categories for teams based on letter grades A,B and C. These three teams each consist of three team members. AcDec is the only academic competition that provides opportunities for students of ranging letter grades.
“The best part of AcDec is the team of talented kids. Everyone has different and amazing skills they bring to the table,” Brooks said.
In addition to being tested in the seven objective categories, students write an essay, deliver their prepared speech, deliver an impromptu speech and are interviewed by a panel of professionals. The regional competition is hosted by Plano ISD this year and will take place at Plano West in late January. The state competition takes place in San Antonio in late February.
“I think our number one goal is for students to see that academic competition can be just as fun and exciting as athletic competition. Our students have prepared so well this year. I think they will perform well at regionals and state,” Reczek said.
The benefits of AcDec are that it prepares students for college. They get to learn study skills and time management. AcDec also boosts students’ resumes because colleges know how rigorous the program is.
“We enjoy hearing the original speeches students come up with and present. We love getting to know these students by having them in class every day and by travelling to competitions with them. It is so fun to watch them become such close friends,” Reczek said.