The following is a gem about the Manteca High Academic Decathlon Team that appeared in the San Joaquin County Office of Education’s Outlook newsletter:
Laughter and sarcasm fill room S1 at Manteca High School as the reigning County Academic Decathlon champions prepare for the State competition on March 19-22 in Sacramento. The students confidently joke that they don’t need to practice – they’re a shoo-in for making it to Nationals – as the 11-year veteran Academic Decathlon Coach and Teacher, Michael McCullough, acts as the proctor of the essay portion of the competition. However, their work ethic would say otherwise. “I would study for three to four hours after school and anytime I had a free minute between or during other classes,” said Gavin O’Malley, the 16-year old junior, who tied for Overall Speech winner in the Honors (3.75-4.0+) division. However, he agreed with team captain, Allyson Paul, that the team’s camaraderie helped them perform their best. “The inside jokes, memories and games we played are really what helped us remember the information and get the couple of extra points we needed to win,” said Paul and O’Malley.
McCullough agrees, but says this growing sense of commitment started with a group of Decathletes five years ago. “It was their enthusiasm that helped set the stage for these students,” says McCullough. “In that time, I acquired expertise on how to get them to the next level, but none of that would be relevant if they weren’t committed.” Much like the credo for the California Academic Decathlon Association, McCullough shares that although the information they learn is important, the Academic Decathlon teaches students that learning matters and their intelligence makes a difference.
Manteca High took first-place overall at this year’s 34th Annual San Joaquin County Academic Decathlon held Jan. 31 and Feb. 7, at the San Joaquin County Office of Education and Lathrop High School. Manteca High School competed against 12 San Joaquin County high schools with the 2015 theme of New Alternatives in Energy. The Academic Decathlon included essay, interview, and speech competitions, objective tests in art, economics, language/literature, math, music, social science, science, and a high-energy Super Quiz. There were three divisions of scholars per nine-member team, including: 3 Honors (3.75-4.0+); 3 Scholastic (3.00-3.74), and 3 Varsity (0.00-2.99).