Incarnation School decathlon squad enjoys ride into state finals

A mixture of nerves and excitement as well as pride and some anxiety will accompany members of the Glendale Incarnation Parish School academic decathlon team as they prepare for a daylong California Catholic Schools Academic Junior High Decathlon on Saturday.

Incarnation’s program consists of a competition team of eight eighth-graders and two seventh-graders, along with a 10-person practice squad of alternates.

The whole group will be heading to Redwood City to face off against competitors from throughout California, along with a few entrants from other states.

“What I want the most is for them to just feel satisfied with their own performance,” said decathlon coach Emely Reardon, a Bellarmine-Jefferson High School graduate.

“They’re highly motivated students and perfectionists. I want them to feel good, not just about what they do Saturday, but also on what they’ve done this year,” she added.

Students sign up for an extra 10 hours of work per week and an additional 10 hours of school per week just to be part of the team.

“They’re 12, 13 and 14, so that’s a lot to ask,” Reardon said.

Incarnation qualified for the state finals by finishing second at the Los Angeles Archdiocese championships on March 3 at the Long Beach Pyramid.

There, the squad competed against 102 schools and earned the runner-up spot, behind West Los Angeles St. Timothy.

The finish is believed to be the best for the school in over a decade.

“I think the last time they did as well is when they won the archdiocese championship in 2007,” Incarnation principal Colby Boysen said. “It’s been a while since one of our teams has been to the state finals, so we’re very proud and excited about this team.”

Those emotions are shared by decathlon members.

“I’m everything. I’m nervous, I’m excited, I’m scared, but I’m ready,” said team co-captain Kana Park. “I want us to do our best, even if our best doesn’t mean top placing. I just want us to have fun and try hard.”

The competition will be divided into three events.

There will be logic quizzes that involve teamwork and an individual examination in which eight squad members will be tested in an area of expertise.

In the logic competition, teams will have 50 minutes to solve logic puzzles, such as Sudokus and reasoning questions, as well as answer to riddles.

The individual tests will cover eight topics: religion, English and spelling, literature, science, mathematics, current events, social studies and fine arts.

The final event will have a game-show atmosphere in front of an audience, where each team will answer multiple-choice questions by holding up cards with letters corresponding to their answers.

“We want to do really well, like top three,” said co-captain Liam Fitzpatrick, a Glendale resident. “I’m a little bit nervous because I know I have things to work on before the competition, but I’m also excited about the chance to go and compete.”

Though the squad has been practicing four days a week, including Sundays, Reardon made an interesting choice in canceling all practices during the final week before the state contest.

“They just need a break,” she said. “They know the material. They’ll do well.”

Reardon is assisted by St. Francis High alumnus Christopher Marrone, while the team of competing decathletes includes Karolyn Barsamian, Roxana Ebrahim, Emily Kim, Miranda McDevitt, Alex Schellhardt, Graciella Tiu, Christian Villanueva and Julian Vences.

The alternate squad is made up of Alyssa Antig, Charlene De La Cruz, Brendan Doria, Natalia Garcia, Andrea Ferrer, Andrew Maalouf, Caitlin Medalla, Gavin Nalbandian, Viola O’Beirne, Tyler Torres and Adan Vences.

“This program has become quite a thing on campus now, to where we get fourth- and fifth-grade parents are asking [Boysen] and myself what tests [their children] have to accomplish to be a part of the team,” Reardon said. “They’ve seen the seventh- and eighth-graders having fun, and they want to be a part of this. It’s an exciting time.”

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