Monday, 15 July 2024

Battle of the Brains: Teams prepare for county Academic Decathlon


The toughest will be, can Upper Lake's premier coach Tina Moore conclude her eight-year reign by going undefeated?

The answer will come at the conclusion of the Decathlon's Super Quiz beginning at 4 p.m.

"I would like to go out a winner, but some year we're going to lose," says Moore, who has announced her intention of retiring. "It would be fun for me to win again, but not so much fun for others."

Upper Lake will be challenged by Middletown, Clear Lake and – most especially – Lower Lake Decathlon teams, who will launch a grinding day of brain drain at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday and conclude with a 4 p.m. Super Quiz competition at LLHS gym.

The quiz is the only segment of the cerebral showdown that is open to the public.

If the competition follows the form of a year ago, Lower Lake would stand the best chance of putting a damper on Moore's going-away party. The south-county challengers performed well enough last year to join Upper Lake in going to the Decathlon's state finals.

To the question of her team having the best shot at unseating Upper Lake, Lower Lake coach Nancy Harby replied, "Oh, absolutely!"

"Tina is a formidable coach and her kids do really well," Harby said. "Here at Lower Lake we cultivate the concept of a worthy opponent, so we have a lot of respect for their team and their coach. But this might be our year."

It would be quite an achievement given the perennial strength of the Upper Lake team, whose record of success eclipses any other form of competition between the county's high schools and its so-far superior formula for success.

Music, math and economics teachers Becky Toback, Mel O'Meara and Alex Stabiner have worked with team members.

The Upper Lake team wrapped up its preparation last weekend working on strategies to speed up responses to math problems up to and including calculus.

"I'm pretty confident of our team this year. I think we're all motivated, so we're hoping for the best," says Upper Lake team captain Omega Letana, a 4.0 GPA-plus student, who has achieved the rare feat of being a team member for the third straight year.

"We have a lot of new people this year – for example, someone who is really good in math. So, I think we kind of complement each other," Letana added.

Adding strength to the Upper Lake team are two male students who are juniors and likely to duplicate Letana's three-year achievement.

Moore describes the Decathlon as "friendly competition," adding, "it's whoever works the hardest. We tell our students every year, 'I don't care if Lower Lake beats you, but I don't want them to work harder than you.'"

The Upper Lake dynasty has been helped along by the spirit that has developed around the eight-year string of successes. Graduated team members have volunteered to help out in drilling team members for the Decathlon.

And to be sure the graduates have raised the bar for those who follow. Only four graduates of the annual nine-member teams over the years, for example, have not enrolled in colleges, Moore estimates.

"It's a rare exception when they even enter a two-year (junior) college (rather than a four-year institution)," she adds.

Keep in mind that the teams are an across-the-board academic mix. Only three members have GPAs of 3.7 or better. Three others are mid-level students (3.7 to 3.0) and the remaining three are 3.0 or lower.

Upper Lake's repeated trips to the state finals has built respect for Lake County, academia-wise.

"... And Lower Lake's coming up last year really underlined it; it's not just Upper Lake," Moore observed.

"We've worked hard this year, so it would be nice if we could come back and win again," says Letana.

E-mail John Lindblom at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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