Gaffney Earns Gold at State Championships

Madeleine Singh, Staff Writer

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The Academic Decathlon team attended the California State Competition from March 17 to March 20, with 7 of its 9 members receiving medals in various events. There were 69 teams (almost 700 students) at the gathering in Sacramento. The teams, representing every county in the state, competed in 10 subjects related to the theme of India.

This year’s team consisted of captain senior Uma Gaffney, seniors Polina Florova, Holden Kolner, and Soha Sadeghinejad, juniors Zoe Portnoff and Bennet Coates, and sophomores Ashley Zhang, Ellen Si, and Morgan Langstaff.

Highlights of the team’s achievements include Gaffney’s perfect score in the Interview category, earning her the gold medal. “I was graded on how well I respond to the interview- my non-verbal stuff- but also my answers as well. Usually, there are 3 interviewers, but at State I only had 1,” said Gaffney.

Gaffney also earned medals in Literature, Social Studies, Math, and Speech, and was the 10th highest scoring student out of the nearly 700 who attended the competition.

Portnoff earned a gold medal in the art. “For the competitions, we sit down and take tests on the material that we’ve covered throughout the year. For art, we study things like different kinds of art movements in India, and different styles of art including architecture, photography, murals, watercolors, things like that,” explained Portnoff. “We also studied selective works in the art category, which are just like notable works. For instance, in India we had the Taj Mahal.”

Sadeghinejad received a perfect score and the gold medal in the Speech category, performing both prepared and impromptu speeches. For the impromptu category, each contestant was given three prompts from which to choose and were given a minute to prepare a notecard before delivering their speech. “The prompt I chose was ‘What Event in History Would You Change?’ and 9/11 just popped up in my head because my birthday is on 9/11 so I talked about that,” said Sadeghinejad.

“I think the reason that it got to them [the judges] is because I got a little bit emotional in it. I hardly looked at my notecard, it just kind of came out of me and I think that’s a really important skill I learned from Aca Deca. It just felt so natural, and it felt like I was talking to the judges and I knew them,” she added.

Advisor Paul Verbansky already is looking for new members for next year’s  team. “Next year’s theme for Academic Decathlon is World War II and I will be looking for fresh recruits to replace my graduating seniors, all levels of GPA needed!” said Verbansky.

“I always think that AP students should take Aca Deca because when I started AP Euro as a sophomore, those were some of the first timed essays I’d ever done, and we do timed essays in Aca Deca so it’s a good chance to practice that,” said Gaffney. “Knowledge, in general, is never a bad thing.”

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