Wednesday, 29 November 2023

Upper Lake High gears up for California Academic Decathlon

UPPER LAKE – On Thursday morning the Upper Lake High School Academic Decathlon team will set out for the 30th California Academic Decathlon, to be held this weekend in Sacramento. {sidebar id=133}


It's become a regular trip for the dedicated group of students – who have won the state small school championship in previous years.


They're led this year by teacher Anna Sabalone, herself a former member of the team who is in her first year coaching.


The team won the county Academic Decathlon title in February. After a little time off to rest and recover from various bouts of colds and flu, the team members are now in final preparations and getting excited for the weekend competition, Sabalone said.


“It's the culmination of nearly a year's worth of work,” Sabalone said.


Upper Lake's team members will be among 60 teams and more than 500 students from 39 counties and regions across the state, including public and private high schools, that will participate in this year’s competition, according to a California Academic Decathlon statement. “Latin America” is this year's study topic.


Once the Upper Lake team gets to Sacramento, they'll have two days of studying before the competition begins on Saturday morning, Sabalone said.


Sabalone said the Saturday competition, which will take place at California State University, Sacramento, will include all the testing, to be followed on Sunday by speech and interview, also at Sacramento State.


The Super Quiz, which is open to the public, will be held on Sunday at Sacramento's Memorial Auditorium. Sabalone said awards will be given during a Monday ceremony. The team will come home later that day.


But the emphasis for her is on the experience and the competition itself, which she said sticks with the students long after the pencils are set down.


Upper Lake is in Division 3, the small schools category; middle-sized schools fall into Division 2 and large schools into Division 1.


Upper Lake's February score, 34,736, ranks it eighth out of 20 Division 3 schools.


In years past, Lower Lake High School, who has battled Upper Lake for the top local spot over the years, also has been invited as an at large school. But, unfortunately, that's not the case this year.


That's the result of a change in the state competition's method of inviting at large schools, said Ken Scarberry, California Academic Decathlon director.


Scarberry said the state's 39 Academic Decathlon coordinators, who meet regularly, have been negotiating for years to change the process of making invitations based on county enrollment, which is how the competition originally was set up.


What that meant is that counties with many teams – in Southern and Central California there are areas with as many as 60 teams competing – were able to send only a few teams. At the same time, some smaller Northern California areas, with fewer teams, were getting to send a larger proportion of their competitors.


This year, for the first time, they're going an a score basis, said Scarberry.


The winning team of each region is guaranteed to advance to the state competition, and any open spots go to the next-highest scoring teams. He said all of this year's invited, at-large teams have scored more than 40,000 points.


“We have the best of the best represented across the state on that level,” said Scarberry.


For Lower Lake, he said, the incentive is to shoot for the 40,000 range.


Smaller schools can score in that range, he said, pointing to a small Central California school that's scored more than 40,000 points yet has a student body of less than 600.


He said there are a handful of states across the country that are actually looking at this concept. Scarberry added that many states don't use scores as a basis to invite teams to the statewide competition.


Upper Lake's entire team has been nominated for a Stars of Lake County Award in the student of the year category; individual team members Benjamin Mullin, Stephanie Tregea and Thonyoon Chao were nominated individually, as was Emmalena Illia, a Lower Lake academic decathlete.


Sabalone said her students already are excited about starting work on next year's study theme – the French Revolution.


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


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