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Yosemite High wins 22nd consecutive academic decathlon

For the 22nd consecutive year, Yosemite High School has been crowned the champions of the Madera County Academic Decathlon.

“Congratulations to Yosemite High School for their 22nd consecutive win in Madera County - This is an amazing accomplishment,” said Dr. Cecilia Massetti, Madera County Superintendent of Schools. “The students and coach are commended for their hard work and dedication in preparation for this prestigious academic competition.”

Yosemite’s Jonathan Wharton was the highest scoring decathlete in the county with 6,736.10 points, and brought home more medals than anyone in the competition (two gold, three silver, three bronze). The 16-member Yosemite team as a whole, walked away from the event with nearly 50 medals.

“It was a lot of fun to work with our great team from the time we started preparing for the Academic Decathlon in September, meeting twice a week for four hours,” Wharton said. “The best part of our team is it’s made up of different people who are not just about academics. Some team members are also active in sports, drama and other after school activities. It’s a well-rounded group of students and I feel that helped make for a stronger team.”

Last year Wharton received two medals (gold and bronze) in the competition and was determined to do better this year.

“I focused on one subjet last year and this year I made a commitment to broaden my area of studies for the competition - and it payed-off.”

The team, made up nine seniors, five juniors, and two sophomores, scored 35,952.3 points (across 10 events) out of 65,400, and will challenge the best schools from throughout California, March 20-22 in Sacramento.

Yosemite team members are Wharton, Clara Briley, Meagan Montalto, Christen Cogdell, Greg Royse, Rebekah Urbano, Rachel Arroyo, Andrew Volpetti, Eric de la Parra, Bella Flaherty, Connor McMechan, Isabel McGoldrick, Kelsi Stieler, Lauren Peterson, Natalya Levashoff, and Helen Ko. The team will now advance to the state competition in March. Three members of the team, Cogdell, Royse, and Urbano, have been on the team for three years, and it’s the second year for Wharton, Briley, Arroyo, Flaherty, and Ko.

Chowchilla High placed second, and Liberty - Madera Ranchos placed third. Other county schools in the competition were Chawanakee Academy, Madera High, and Madera South.

Christen Cogdell was given the Team Spirit Award plus Gold medals in Economics, Science, and Social Science. Bella Flaherty delivered a moving speech about teamwork to the whole crowd. Meagan Montalto received an unheard of perfect 1,000 in Interview and Greg Royse also received a Gold in interview.

This year, each student participated in 10 challenging events, including tests in art, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music, science and social science. The contestants performed a prepared and impromptu speech, wrote essays on a given topic and were interviewed by a panel of judges.

“We knew we were going in the right direction after the first round when seven of the nine winners were Badgers,” said Yosemite’s decathlon Coach Steve Browning, the school’s Spanish teacher who is affectionately called Senor Brown by students.

Browning said it was hard to keep his composure as team members were singing the “Badger Spirit” song in the middle of all the stress.

“It was like Bella’s speech infected the whole team and we were one,” Brown said. “As all the long hours of studying transformed to pure excitement and enthusiasm, I realized we are a dynasty and each year we get stronger, smarter, and more united.”

Royse contributes the school’s dominance in the competition to Browning.

“His positive attitude, charisma, and dedication to the team makes learning a lot of fun,” Royse said. “I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this team that worked really hard this year. Everyone took on the challenge with enthusiasm, and once again proved that dedication and team work breeds success.”

Urbano, a transplant from Chowchilla, remembers when her mother was the coach of Chowchilla High School’s academic decathlon team.

“When I was in about second through sixth grade, I would go to the team’s practices,” Urbano said. “I was exposed to the Academic Decathlon when I was very young and I think Mr. Brown knew that when he selected me for the team.”

Cogdell said that although members of the team change every year, what doesn’t change is the high intensity, and camradery of the team is it’s strength.

“Everyone is a leader on this team, and everyone brings their own strengths and talents to the team,” Cogdell said.

“We are very proud of the Madera County Decathletes who have prepared all year for this culminating event,” said Cyndy Dolph, Associate Superintendent, Madera County Office of Education. “Congratulations to our students who have worked so diligently and to their coaches for their dedication to the success of their students.”

This Academic Decathlon topic for the 33rd year of competition was “New Alternatives in Energy: Ingenuity and Innovation.” Students answered questions from art, economics, literature, music, science and social science during the Super Quiz.

“Students learned about this timely topic and honed much needed interview, speech and writing skills,” said Massetti. “Students will use the knowledge and skills acquired through the Academic Decathlon for the rest of their lives.”

A total of 116 medals were handed out at the awards ceremony Feb. 7, at Madera South High School. Yosemite High was awarded 49 medals: 21 gold, 8 silver, and 20 bronze. Chowchilla High received 26 medals: nine gold, nine silver, and eight bronze. Liberty High was awarded 23 medals, Chawanakee Academy received a total of eight medals, Madera High received seven, and Madera South High received three.

“We are very fortunate in Madera County to have the support of businesses, community groups and individuals who value the academic achievement of students and support this event through donations and volunteering,” Massetti said. “Their support makes this event possible.”

“We are very proud of the Madera County Decathletes who have prepared all year for this culminating event,” said Cyndy Dolph, associate superintendent with the county office of education. “Congratulations to all our students who have worked so diligently and to their coaches for their dedication to the success of their students.”

Top seniors

The top scoring senior from each school received a $100 scholarship. The following students earned the senior honors:

• Yosemite High School- Jonathan Wharton



• Chawanakee Academy- Ndiyo Moore



• Chowchilla Union High School- Savannah Ramirez



• Liberty High School- Emma Horanic



• Madera High School- Halli Burton



• Madera South High School- Evelyn Reyes



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