Oxnard takes home the Division 3 2nd Place Trophy

Academic Decathlon Team is posing for photo.
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Academic Decathlon Team

Oxnard High School’s Academic Decathlon team won multiple medals at this year’s state competition in Sacramento, despite finishing 35th out of 65 teams.

Seven of the nine team members earned individual medals. Jeffrey Moore and Spencer Stevenson both won silver medals in the individual overall category. Oxnard placed second as a team in its division, according to results released Monday.

Granada Hills Charter High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District finished first overall this past weekend and will represent the state in the national Academic Decathlon next month in Charlotte, N.C. — a competition California has not lost since 2002. Last year’s state and national winner, El Camino Real High School in Los Angeles Unified, finished third in Sacramento this year. Marshall High School, also in L.A. Unified, finished second.

During Monday’s awards ceremony at Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento, Oxnard’s Sarah Watte was recognized as the highest-scoring student on her team, capping a bittersweet trip for her.

This was Watte’s third and final year on the team, and although she called it “the best yet,” she said, “It’s kind of sad because we’re all seniors and we’re all leaving the team.”

Watte earned a gold medal in the essay category as well as a gold for being the team’s top scorer.

Moore earned a gold in social science, a silver in art, a bronze in language and literature, and another silver for having the second-highest overall individual score in his scholastic category.

Students compete in one of three categories based on their grade point averages. Students with GPAs below 3.0 compete as varsity decathletes; those will GPAs between 3.0 and 3.74 compete as scholastic decathletes; and those with GPAs 3.75 or higher compete as honors decathletes.

Schools themselves are divided among three divisions based on their point scores coming into the state competition. Oxnard’s score from last month’s Ventura County competition put it in Division 3.

Moore’s accomplishments in Sacramento come on top of a pledge he made to his parents that he would maintain his grades while competing. They had initially opposed him participating in the Academic Decathlon, he said, fearing his grades would drop because of the time commitment.

“So we made a deal,” Moore said. “If I could get straight A’s, I could do it.”

And he did.

The students were tested in 10 categories, including art, music, economics, language and literature, science, speech and interview. This year’s topic was the Great Depression.

Stevenson took a gold in music, a silver in both math and the super quiz, and a silver overall in his varsity category.

Team member Danielle Bonucchi took a silver in art, Ian Cossman earned a silver in language and literature, Chase Bennett took a bronze in math and Natalia Russell won a silver in interview. Kyree Childress and Sasan Samadzadeh rounded out the team.

Oxnard also won the county Academic Decathlon last year and went on to finish 28th out of 62 teams at the state competition. As a wild-card team at the state event, it placed 12th in 2007 and 13th in 2008.

Like Watte, Russell relished the moments in Sacramento this year, enjoying what she called just one of many “end-of-high-school” experiences.

“It’s been awesome,” she said.

Having a team of all seniors is unusual, Oxnard coach Chris Conte said. Needless to say, “next year will be a rebuilding year,” he said.

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