Local students score big at academic decathlon
by Denise Ellen Rizzo
Feb 07, 2014 | 1560 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tracy High School took top honors at the San Joaquin County 33rd annual Academic Decathlon on Feb. 1. Pictured at one of the 10 events were members of the team. Courtesy photo
Tracy High School took top honors at the San Joaquin County 33rd annual Academic Decathlon on Feb. 1. Pictured at one of the 10 events were members of the team. Courtesy photo
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West High School student Alexander Xu won top honors at the San Joaquin County’s 33rd annual Academic Decathlon on Feb. 1 for the highest scoring essay. Courtesy photo
West High School student Alexander Xu won top honors at the San Joaquin County’s 33rd annual Academic Decathlon on Feb. 1 for the highest scoring essay. Courtesy photo
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Once again, the Tracy High School academic decathlon team has dominated the countywide competition, taking the school’s fourth consecutive county title Saturday and claiming the Dave Sorgent Winner’s Cup.

Thirty Tracy High students competed in the 33rd annual San Joaquin County Academic Decathlon against 13 other county high schools and a guest school from Santa Clara County.

The victory was Tracy High’s first under new coach Jorja Rule, an English teacher at the school.

Rule, who competed in academic decathlon when she was a student, said her success was also founded on advice she received from former Tracy High coach Terri Sorgent and her husband, a retired San Joaquin County educator who gave his name to the winner’s cup. Dave Sorgent coached academic decathlon teams from Stagg High School in Stockton to county titles 10 years in a row.

Rule bolstered the Tracy High team with “new blood” by recruiting during the first weeks of the school year. Then she and the team started training. The biggest challenge, she said, was keeping track of paperwork and deadlines, not mastering the academics.

World War I was this year’s decathlon theme, which Rule called the “spiderweb that holds the whole thing together.”

Students competed Jan. 25 and Saturday in Stockton. They wrote an essay, completed an interview and gave prepared and impromptu speeches on the first day. A week later, they took written tests in art, economics, language and literature, math, music, science and social science.

Each decathlon team has nine starting members, whose scores count toward the team total. They are divided by GPA into honors (3.75-4.0), scholastic (3.0-3.75) and varsity divisions.

Tracy High also won third place in the Super Quiz.

Rule said Yuvraj “Robbie” Grewal and Miguel Rivera, both returning seniors on the team, stood out among the local competitors. As the highest-scoring student in the entire competition, Grewal received the $1,000 Walter Rathhaus Award and $500 for first place in the honors division.

Rivera placed first in the scholastic division, winning $500, and received more medals than any other member of the Tracy team — eight individual and two team medals.

Rule said Rivera’s accomplishments were particularly impressive because of his family background. His mother speaks no English, she said, and his father very little.

The members of the starting team for Tracy High were Grewal, Rivera, Josh Abraham, Hamza Rainwala, Harveer Gill, Angelica Vu, Eashwar Mohan, Daniel Wirtley and Sukhvir Gill.

On the alternate squad were teammates Rommel B. “Maco” Bermejo, Bryant Martinez, Stan Wang, Amy M. Bezek, Huda Nauman, Joshua Blomgren, Darren Nguyen, Marjorie Caparas, Matthew Nguyen, Harry Dong, Abigail Pineda, Adeel Hussaini, Jacob Sese, Sejal Kargal, Kirk Patrick Testa, Patrick Kidd, Amal Thommil, Hannah Lampkin, Tobe To, Nayaab Ahsan, Aaron Leal, Yishao Wang and Achyuth Varma.

Next stop for the Tracy starting team is the state competition, March 20 to 23 in Sacramento.

Although the team won the county competition with 39,000 out of 100,000 possible points, Rule said it would need 52,000 to 57,000 to win at the state level.

“I feel pretty good about it,” she said. “We are developing a strategy. I think we can certainly get within shooting range of the scores that win state. We need to get another 15,000 points, and the students are dedicated.”

Students from West High School also took part in the county decathlon this year, and West student Alexander Xu wrote the highest scoring essay in the county.

Competitors had a choice of three topics, and Xu wrote about why genetic variation is important to a population’s overall fitness, outlining the major ways genetic variation can be changed in populations, with a comparison to Charles Darwin’s unifying theory.

• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or drizzo@tracypress.com.

 
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