Academic Decathlon: Triumphs and Tribulations


Art/Photo by Jonah Wasserman (11)

Taken during one of their practices, it’s clear that Academic Decathlon’s work is never done, despite having qualified for State. Jonah Wasserman (11), a team member, emphasized: “We are all constantly finding ways to improve by looking back at our previous scores to see what our strengths and weaknesses [are]…We are currently helping each other out in order for our team to succeed [at the] in-state competition.”

Shrutika Ezhil, Staff Writer

   Yet another accomplishment arises from the virtual realm: West High’s Academic Decathlon team has qualified for state competitions after placing 6th in the county! The team has qualified for state for decades now, making it one of the most distinguished teams in LA County. Acadec earned this achievement through much hard work and perseverance especially due to the unfamiliar situation this year presented them with. 

   Julienne Nebrida (11), one of the captains of Acadec, described the biggest obstacle, “The majority of our members were new to the team, and the virtual situation didn’t really help with that. We spent a lot of time at the beginning of the year getting to know everyone while also helping them adjust to the curriculum.” Trying to find and initiate that connection was probably necessary to compete as a team and collaborate with one another. Jonah Wasserman (11), one of the new members of the team, felt that adapting to the curriculum was tough, “Our summer practices were shorter than they were supposed to be, and it wasn’t as easy to annotate the guides since they were online as well.” But both Nebrida and Wasserman agreed that the team eventually found ways to work around the obstacles by helping each other. 

   In addition to the shorter practices and struggles of becoming accustomed to a virtual team, Acadec also faced difficulties with the virtual competitions. Wasserman explained that although the virtual situation may have seemed to bring more ease, things were more stressful. He remarked, “The thought of my wifi going down or there being a power outage [was] constantly on my mind …that could have possibly resulted in me going into an unwanted and long process to fix the situation or even disqualification. As for speech and interview, I had to worry about my siblings not making any noise, my background being too distracting, my microphone acting up, how my camera was angled, and the lighting.” Besides unwanted distractions and unexpected interruptions, other factors—such as navigating the competition platform and judges—also contributed to the challenges. But what kept the team motivated throughout these troubling circumstances? Nebrida expressed, “Usually, we could keep everyone motivated by pointing to the supply of snacks we keep upstairs in the library, but unfortunately, we couldn’t exactly motivate people with food this year…! [This year] everyone was really self-driven and worked hard even without us (the captains) having to push them.” Wasserman also mentioned that just the constant reminder from coaches and captains that “we were doing an amazing job considering this year’s circumstances and that they were proud of all of us. Just hearing those words gave us all motivation to keep trying our best in order to succeed in competition.”

   With state competitions spread out throughout March, the team has been re-studying materials and solidifying speeches. Nebrida said that there was just one goal besides improving on their scores from the county competitions: “to do [our] best!” And to that, good luck to the Academic Decathlon team for state competitions!