Valley students earn medals at state academic competition

Written by   JESSICA SELF

West Valley High School and Hemet High School, who's teams took first and second place honors at the Riverside County competition respectively, each had three medal winners at the state level. The county level competition was the closest in county history as Hemet lost to its crosstown rival by a mere .4 percent. The Bulldogs have been the runner-up to West Valley for the last four years after ending a 10 year winning streak between 1998 and 2008.

From West Valley, Lillian Brummett earned a bronze medal in economics, Victor Vasquez a bronze in essay, and Laura Sisk a bronze in language and literature.

Hemet High School's Daniel Casey took home four medals, two bronze medals in art and economics and two gold in music and language and literature. Sean McGivney earned a bronze in interview and Dallan Gardner a bronze in science.

In the state level competition, the battle between West Valley and Hemet was yet again close. The Mustangs were able to finish 35th in Division 2 and Hemet finished 40th in the same division.

The academic decathlon team is comprised of nine students. Three of them are honors, three are scholastic, and three are varsity. The teams are divided by grade point average, the first is students above 3.75, the second is students between 3 and 3.74, and the third is for students with a GPA below 3.0. Filling out the rest of Hemet's team was Alex Goodwin, Daniel Casey, Erick Ramirez, Roman Victorino, Gerardo Moreno, Mitchell Van Dien, and Mario Wright.

"Every single one of them medaled at county and three at state," said Hemet coach Art Plinski who has coached the team since 1992. "We started studying for these competitions at the beginning of the school year, actually in the summer, with morning practices everyday."

Eventually, the team began practicing in the afternoon as well as giving up precious hours on the weekend to best prepare themselves academically.

"Of course a main driving factor is these kids do not want to embarrass themselves in competition," Plinksi said. "We also have this great rivalry with West Valley and a huge drive to compete in Sacramento each year. It is pretty easy to keep the kids motivated. They enjoy it."

Plinski said the opportunity to work with talented, bright kids makes the time commitment worth it.

"The students are able to develop study habits they will need for college and the subject matter is usually very intriguing," Plinski said.

The competition is divided into 10 categories and each student on the team competes in each category. The categories include math, literature, history, art, science, music, speech, interview, essay, and economics. There is also a Super Quiz team. This year's competition centered on the theme of European Imperialism. Next year, the topic will be Russia.

"These competitions create a spirit for these students to prove how bright they are," Plinski said. "I never want my teams to think they can rest on their laurels. Every year it is a new team, as most every team is completely comprised of seniors, with its own distinct personality."

Hemet team member Gerardo Moreno said being on the academic decathlon team was not only fun, but a great boost for his college applications.

"I made mistakes early on in high school and my grades weren't great," he said. "Academic decathlon kind of gave me experience and helped me decide I want to major in art history."

Gerardo said his time on the team made him feel more comfortable in front of a crowd.

"The speeches and the interview sections really made me feel better about talking in front of people," Gerardo said. "Communication is not a big part of regular high school classes, so that was a unique part of aca-dec."

He also credits the team for giving him a better relationship with his teachers, a skill he hopes will help in college with his professors.

For senior Dallan Gardner, being a part of the team was largely based on his need for an academic challenge.

"It is a huge honor to be on the team," Dallan said. "I thrive on the competition. To see who the best one on the team was and to see how we stacked up against other schools, it was thrilling."

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