Academic Decathlon Aces Its Way to the Finish Line

OCAD includes Ananya Sampat, Neha Muvvala, Riya Jain, Souhita Thota, Desmond Wong, Bing Bing Ma, Si Yi “Amy” Huang and Aamina Thasneem Khaleel. During the lunch break of its JV competition on May 18 at Aliso Niguel High, the decathletes quiz one another for the multiple-choice subject tests.

Jane Zou, Staff Writer

When picturing the award-winning team of the Orange County Academic Decathlon (OCAD), it may be surprising that brains and brawn coexist and play to one another’s strengths. Decathletes have racked up over a dozen medals in specific events. An homage to the Greek decathlon, OCAD is a team and individual competition with 10 topics in areas of language and literature, science, mathematics, social science, economics, art, music, essay, interview and speech.

Sophomore decathletes are president and founder Aamina Thasneem Khaleel, vice president Bing Bing Ma, secretary Zeynep Kaygusuz, Megha Andraju, Si Yi “Amy” Huang and Neha Muvvala. Freshmen decathletes include Riya Jain, Ananya Sampat, Souhita Thota and Desmond Wong.

“I think the main goal of the Academic Decathlon was to compete because people in academic clubs usually believe it’s only for smart students or students who have a 4.0 GPA,” Khaleel said. “You really are enabling multiple students from different and from a wide range of grades to participate.”

Decathletes take 30-minute multiple choice tests, give three separate speeches and write an essay within 50 minutes and compete against other high schools head-on in the Super Quiz. All events, apart from the mathematics multiple-choice test, center around the 2018-19 curricular theme “The 1960s: A Transformational Decade”.

“I think that [starting a club] is a great achievement because I’ve heard from other teachers in the district starting when the first school year opens, there wasn’t enough interest, so that’s why a majority of our club are made up of just freshmen and sophomores this year,” Khaleel said.

Although OCAD did not have enough people in the different GPA categories to compete in JV together, individual members participated as an unattached team.

OCAD will focus on preparing for the 2019-20 topic “In Sickness and in Health: An Exploration of Illness and Wellness.” Next season, OCAD will fundraise more often to subsidize the textbook and study material expenses.

“I would recommend this experience to my other friends because it is not an experience of competing, but also an experience of challenging ourselves and being in a member of the group and team,” Ma said.