Pictured: Academic Decathlon team members on Wednesday loaded up the bus and headed to the state meet in San Antonio. The team is going into the competition ranked first in the state.

Photo by MAURICIO JULIAN CUELLAR JR.

Decathlon team enters competition ranked first

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

They came back from region competition ranked number one in the state.

This year's Alice High School Academic Decathlon Team has spent the five weeks since staying focused and getting prepared for the biggest contest of their lives.

The students and their advisor, Dr. Joseph Eberhard, said they felt both excited and very confident about the state meet this weekend.

Last week, the team took an official practice exam, covering all 10 subject areas, as they would be conducted at a formal Academic Decathlon meet.

Guest judges were brought in for the speech, interview and essay portions of the practice meet, and Eberhard directed them to grade as hard as possible.

"We wanted them to judge them really hard, and they did. The score from region went down a thousand points, which is OK but the written score, on the seven objective exams, all those combined went up 4,000 points," Eberhard said.

"I told the students if we could hit the same speech, interview and essay scores as district, then no one will be able to touch us. Even with the subjectives going down 1,000 points, our total score still would have beaten the state record by 700 points."

Eberhard said now it is up to the team.

"It's one thing to prepare, but now we have to perform," he said.

For senior Yvette Saenz, performance has not been an issue.

One of the leaders of the team, Saenz is an academic star. At the top of her class, and headed to Yale in the fall, Saenz hit nearly 9,000 points at the practice meet. Only 30 students from across the country have been able to hit 9,000 over the 25-year history of the contest.

"I feel excited about it. Usually I feel pretty nervous going into competition. But I think for the first time, in my time of participation, I actually feel excited, like we've prepared as much as we can. We really laid it all on the table," Saenz said.

She said she realizes the expectations are high for this year's team, and she is nervous about it, but that just motivates Saenz to really try her hardest.

"I'll just have to relax and trust myself, I know that I can do it," Saenz said.

For fellow teammate Joey Gutierrez, the state meet is the high point of his senior year. Gutierrez is also at the top of his class and is heading for MIT in the fall. He said he's excited about this weekend's contest, and that the team from Alice is going to blow everyone's mind at the meet.

After all is said and done, Gutierrez said he will feel happy that everything is finally over.

"Afterwards, when I come back on Monday I'm going to be like…'what am I going to do with my time?' It's going to be hard," Gutierrez said.