For the first time since 2018, Loyola’s Academic Decathlon team competed in a tournament. 15 Cubs competed in the Southern California Region Academic Decathlon throughout January and early February. Although the team only began practicing in late October when most schools began preparing at the beginning of August, the Cubs found much success, placing 3rd in their division and bringing home 21 individual medals.
Coach Dr. Jeremy Arnold said, “I think the rest of us, especially after doing so well this year, are even more motivated for next year. We started late, but the academic strengths of all of our team members put us in a good position to win 3rd place and earn a number of individual medals.”
The main topic for each year changes, and the topic for the 2020-2021 season was the Cold War. Students competed in the following ten subjects areas: art, music, math, science, literature, speech, interview, essay, history, and economics. The entire competition took place over the course of 3 weekends: the essay competition was held on Jan. 16, the Speech and Interview competition was held on Jan. 30 and the 7 Objective subject tests were conducted on Feb. 6.
Academic decathlon captain, Junior Charles Legaspi, stated, “The Cold War theme was extremely interesting, and I believe that it was very beneficial for the students because we all had some previous knowledge about the events of the Cold War. Our coach Dr. Arnold is a Social Science teacher, so he taught us extremely well about the context, specifics and causes and effects of the Cold War.”
Members of the team were chosen based on separate GPA categories. Students can fall into the following categories based on GPA: Honors (GPA 3.8-4.0), Scholastic (GPA 3.2-3.79) and Varsity (GPA 0.0-3.19). The team was composed of a mix of grade levels, but the vast majority of the team were juniors. The team managed to adapt to the online environment very well. Nine decathletes were chosen on the main team, with six alternates as well. All team members competed and were eligible to win medals for each subject.
Legaspi said, “Although I already knew most of the members from the team because they are my classmates and friends, we all truly developed a cooperative camaraderie. Our relationship as Cubs truly persevered through the competition, and even though we did not have much time to prepare for the competition (roughly less than 4 months), we were able to work together extremely well to place 3rd in our division.”
The entire competition was held virtually for all 10 subjects. Online tools like zFairs and the Academic Decathlon website were utilized to administer tests and interviews. The competition results of each school were showcased in an online virtual ceremony on Feb. 16.
Alternate Sophomore Bowen Kim said, “Because of the weekly meetings and practices, the team became familiar with each other and grew closer as the competition became nearer and nearer, despite the online environment.”
Many of the Loyola decathletes found success throughout the competition. The following members of the team won awards: Legaspi won three gold medals, three silver medals, two bronze medals, the top team scorer medal and was the 2nd highest individual scorer in the entire division; Senior Pranav George won three gold medals and one bronze medal; Juniors Jacob Malone and Sebastian Basa each won one silver and one bronze medal; Junior Kalen Park won one gold medal and one bronze medal; and Junior Pasha Jandaghi won one bronze medal. Additionally, Junior Ryan Tobin and alternate Junior Matthew Speier each won the Renaissance award.
Legaspi said, “Ever since I was a freshman, I sought to rebuild this team, and I am so grateful to Mr. Walter and Dr. Arnold for supporting me in this wonderful journey! I am so thankful for Loyola’s academic and financial support for the Academic Decathlon team.”
Many of the decathletes have the same qualities that make them qualified to represent Loyola High School during competition.
Arnold said, “Obviously being a good student is the most important thing! But being a good student isn’t just about GPAs, test scores, or anything like that. A good student is committed; curious; honest about, and humble in the face of, what they don’t know; and willing to work with others to learn.”
Decathletes also gave tips and recommendations for students interested in joining.
Legaspi advised, “For students that are interested in joining the team, I highly recommend that every student should try out for the team and apply for a position. Whether you are on the official team as a decathlete or as an alternate, the Academic Decathlon experience is one of bonding, discipline, and education.”
Kim said, “For any students interested in joining, I recommend you space out your studying throughout the entire year. But remember to have fun!”
Loyola High School hosted an on-campus awards ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 28, to celebrate the accomplishments of the team. Medals were distributed to the students, and lunch was provided.
Arnold said, “Anyone interested in pushing themselves to compete at the highest level against some of the best students in Los Angeles should apply for next year’s team. While it is a lot of work, we have so much fun too!”