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Manteca High wins big in the 2012 academic decathlon
Manteca High academic decathlon team members are, back row from left, advisor Mike McCullough, Deondre Dela Cruz, Mia Holbrook, Rosa Zou, Javier Elias, Carlos Medina, Clarissa Copeland, and Dilpreet Kaur; front, Jenny Yu, left, and Nicole Deleon. - photo by Photo Contributed

Nine Manteca High students and their advisor made the school proud at the 31st annual San Joaquin County Academic Decathlon.

The brainy team brought home a plaque for placing second place overall after the two-day competition involving a dozen high schools in San Joaquin County plus a guest school from Santa Clara County. The Buffalo team was also named second among the top three large schools.

Manteca High’s haul of honors did not stop there. Among the top three Super Quiz teams selected, advisor Michael McCullough’s academic decathlon students were also awarded individual medals plus a team plaque for finishing second place.

Rounding out the honors for Manteca High were the scholastic certificates and scholarships bestowed upon two members of the team. Placing second in the Top Overall Students in the scholastic division was Carlos Medina who was awarded $200; third place went to Mia Holbrook who received the $100 award. Team member Jenny Yu earned a gold medal in the essay competition.

The teams competed in their knowledge of the Age of Empire, the theme of the 2012 academic decathlon. Competition areas included essay, interview, speech, objective tests in art, economics, language and literature, math, music, social science, and the high-energy Super Quiz which McCullough called “the glamour event.”

The honor that the Buffalo team and their advisor brought home was the result of hard work and intense preparation, McCullough explained.

“Getting ready for the competition involved months of preparation,” he said. “Students were asked to read about 800 pages of curriculum. We spent the majority of our class time presenting that material and reviewing it in a variety of ways.

Their reviews, he added, “consisted of tests, flash-card questions, and a knowledge-based game.”

McCullough credited school Principal Frank Gonzales for making the funds available to purchase the review materials that the team used.

“Students put in long hours, both over the summer reading some of the initial materials, and during December and January in particular when we worked typically from 2:30 to 5 (p.m.) or later each school day,” McCullough in his e-mailed response to the Bulletin’s questions.

According to the San Joaquin County Office of Education’s records, Manteca High placed third in the academic decathlon last year, with Tracy High finishing first as they did again this  year.

Two years ago, Manteca High was fourth place, prompting Buffalo Social Studies teacher Nina Horton to comment, “we’re moving up on Tracy High. We are very proud of our team.”

The honor students – those with the highest GPAs (3.75 or above) – in McCullough’s team were senior Nicole DeLeon who is expected to be either the valedictorian or salutatorian of her graduating class, and juniors Jenny Yu and Rosa Zou. Zou received two medals this year; five last year, and six during her freshman year.

Students in the scholastic level – students in the 3.0 to 3.75 GPA range – of the Manteca High team are all underclassmen. They are juniors Carlos Medina and Dilpreet Kaur, and sophomore Mia Holbrook. The latter two are in their first year with the competition. Medina and Holbrook both received four individual medals, with the “most rewarding being Carlos’ silver and Mia’s bronze for overall performance,” McCullough said. “This means they were the second and third highest scorers overall in the Scholastic Division.”

The varsity group – students with a sub-3.0 GPA – was led by a second-year decathlete, Clarissa Copeland.

“She was the team’s most highly decorated contestant with five medals, including a gold in music,” McCullough said.

The other two starters are Javier Elias and Deondre Dela Cruz who, like Copeland, are seniors.

Dela Cruz and Yu (from the honors division) were alternates on the decathlon team last year.

The Super Quiz topic this year was social sciences.

“Each division was presented 10 questions for a total of 30 questions in all. Manteca High School finished very strong in this event, although we could not quite keep up with Tracy High,” McCullough said.

“I am extremely proud of every one of my decathletes. They put forth a tremendous effort in preparing for the competition, and on the two days we actually competed, they made the hard work pay off. My pride extends also to my several alternates – many of them worked just as hard as the starters and put in as long hours. No one ever lost sight of the team nature of this event. We are all looking forward to showing what we can accomplish next year,” McCullough concluded.

Only two high schools in the Manteca Unified School District competed in this year’s academic decathlon – Manteca High and Lathrop High School. The competitions took place at the University of the Pacific Jan. 28 and Feb. 4, with the awards ceremonies held at the Scottish Rite Auditorium in Stockton.