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RHS Students Prep For Academic Battle
Tackling extra studies on top of their regular schoolwork, Riverbank High students are heading into the final stretch of preparations to compete in the 2011 Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon.

Hailed as the biggest annual academic event for local high schools, the decathlon includes a two-day series of tests, speeches and interviews for teams from 14 schools during the days of Feb. 4 and 5.

It is followed by a Super Quiz and awards presentation that Saturday from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Gregori High School Gymnasium to which the public is invited. There is no charge for admission.

Riverbank's team is being coached by English teacher Roz Taulbee. Team members include Ashley Tristao, Yolanda Pantoja, Courtney Floyd, Tempest Robertson, Megan Larson, Lisette Reyes, William Perkins and Vanessa Ariza. Their alternates who can fill in for a team member unable to attend are Katelyn Mitchell, Mariella Vigil, Tanya Manzo, Abime Fernandez-Rivera, Armando Reyes and Anna Rosales.

All these students will take the written tests. Core team members will in addition make the speeches, be interviewed and take part in the Super Quiz.

"The decathlon was open to all high school students, Adelante besides Riverbank High, this year and they are all volunteers," said Taulbee. "We started with 26. Now we're down to 15. This is our first year back in the competition after a gap of several years. There is still no budget and no class."

Tristao and Rosales coordinate the students who study on their own and come to see Taulbee at lunch for extra sessions when they can.

This year's theme is The Great Depression and the book "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck. The Super Quiz topic will be the geology of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl conditions that struck the Midwest in the 1920s and 1930s as a result of years of poor farming practices and the consequent migration to California and adjoining states.

"Will (Perkins) will make the speech on music. He's into the music of the '20s and 30s. Tempest (Robertson), the student body president, is a good speaker too," said Taulbee.

Co-sponsored by the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE), Gallo Foundation and Mocse Credit Union, the decathlon promotes interschool competition in academics and is supported through contributions made by businesses and the community.

The goal of the decathlon is to stimulate intellectual growth and scholastic success.

"The competition is open to all students, not just the top achievers," said SCOE Student Events Coordinator Barbara Little. "Our objective is to recognize student achievement and to emphasize the positive dimensions of education."

Participating teams generally send a total of nine scoring members to serve as the core team, with three students in each of three categories, based on grade point average. Schools may send as many alternate participants as they choose. Categories include Honors of 3.75 to 4.0 GPA, Scholastic of 3.0 to 3.74 GPA and varsity of up to a 2.99 GPA.

Fourteen local high schools are participating in this year's event including Beyer, Central Catholic, Central Valley, Ceres, Davis, Denair, Enochs, Johansen, Keyes Charter, Modesto, Oakdale, Riverbank, Valley Charter and Waterford.

The winner will represent Stanislaus County at the California Academic Decathlon State Finals on March 11 through 14 in Sacramento.