BY DAVID JAMES HEISS
For the first time in nearly 15 years, Beaumont High School ranked among the top three teams in the county’s annual Academic Decathlon competition, held virtually between Jan. 25-29, concluding with the Super Quiz on Feb. 5.
Beaumont dominated the Super Quiz, and took first place in that event.
Beaumont’s coach Chuck Rathfelder was thrilled at his students’ accomplishments this year, as placing third in the county “is actually pretty difficult to do: the last time we were that high” in the rankings was back in 2007, he says.
And while Beaumont has annually placed among the top 10, it has been a challenge to break the top three.
Doing so qualifies Beaumont to participate in the state competition for their first time ever, which starts March 1.
Beaumont boasts winning 22 individual medals at the county competition this year: junior Kirsten Cabalonga, who had the top score on the team and took third place overall in the Honors division, earned a gold medal in music and social science, a silver medal in art, bronze medals in economics and science; freshman Joseph Booth scored the second-highest overall for the team and placed second overall in the Scholastic division, won a gold in science, and silver medals in literature, art, essay and social science, as well as bronze medals in music, math, economics and in the Super Quiz; sophomore Savannah Sontoski earned a silver medal in science; freshman Brooke Escobar got a silver medal for speech and a bronze medal in science; and freshman Alexis McGraw received a bronze medal in art, essay and, interview.
Each academic decathlon team is composed of nine students, three from each grade point category (Honor, 3.8-4.0; Scholastic, 3.2-3.79; and Varsity, 00.-3.19)
“We only have a few weeks to try to improve our scores for the state competition, but that’s really exciting,” Rathfelder says. “It will be our first time competing against teams from San Bernardino and LA counties, and that’s interesting; I think our students are also fired up about it. In the next few days, we should find out what division we’re going to be in. California has the best teams in the nation,” and, according to Rathfelder, the state has won the national competition for the past 18 consecutive years.
Cabalonga, the Academic Decathlon Team’s president, felt that this year’s tests “were a lot more difficult, so it was a little bit more challenging than last year. I promised myself I would score higher this year, so I was bummed when I actually did the opposite” despite having the team’s top score. “It was disappointing that the competition wasn’t in-person, but I was really excited because our team was strong, and I wholeheartedly believed that we were going to qualify for the state championships. Every person on our team worked hard, and we’re hoping to place high again at the state.”
Booth contends that competition was rough. “Competition went really well. We studied hard, and I think we all grew closer as a team. I think especially in the speech and interview questions we really came together and supported each other to get some really awesomely high scores.”
For the sixth year in a row, Lake Elsinore High School took first place at the Riversity County Academic Decathlon, which is sponsored by the Riverside County Office of Education.
For its 39th annual competition, the decathlon’s theme was “Water: A Most Essential Resource.”
Joining Lake Elsinore at the state-level competition will be Western Center Academy, Beaumont High School, Corona High School, Great Oak High School and Hemet High School.
The winner of the state competition competes in the national academic decathlon competition the week of April 21-23.