By Jenelyn Russo     7/6/2020

In March of this year, 14 Catholic schools from the Diocese of Orange competed in the local Catholic School Academic Junior High Decathlon, an event at which students go head-to-head in 10 academic events, both individually and as a team, for the chance to advance to the national competition. 

Defending team champion, and winner of 10 out of the last 14 local decathlon events was St. Edward the Confessor Parish School, who again took this year’s top team prize. Second and third place team finishers were St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School and St. Junipero Serra Catholic School, respectively.  

Due to restrictions stemming from COVID-19, the 2020 national event originally scheduled for April in Riverside, was cancelled. In recognition of the top decathletes, the Catholic School Academic Junior High Decathlon committee compiled local event scores from decathlons held in California and other participating states and published National Rankings. Four schools from the Diocese of Orange received national honors. 

St. Edward the Confessor’s team was named the 2020 Overall National Champion. The school’s varsity team members included Audrey Crafts, Bridget Crafts, Justin Frericks, Brynn Garcia, Landon Gwin, Reid Gwin, Karissa Hughes, Evelyn Lopez, Reagan Murray, Joe O’Melveny and Katie Pfeiffer. The school also finished with national rankings in six categories including a 1st place team finish in the Super Quiz, 2nd place in Fine Arts (Garcia), 2nd place in Literature (Hughes), 3rd place in Religion (Murray), 3rd place in Science (Frericks) and 3rd place in Social Studies (L. Gwin). 

St. Edward has won the state and/or national title seven times, and having just missed winning the national event in 2019, the team is excited to be bringing the trophy back to campus.  

“Our students on the team are wonderful examples and models of what you can do when put in the effort,” says St. Edward Academic Decathlon Coordinator Stacie Rego. “You can be successful, no matter what you want to try.” 

At Mission Basilica School, 7th grader Bianca Vaquerano was the national 1st place winner in the Fine Arts category. Team building, study skills and time management are just a few of the benefits for students who participate in a program like Academic Decathlon. 

“My hope is that they all learn how to work together as a team, because they do count on one another,” says Alycia Beresford, principal at Mission Basilica School. “Most importantly, they’re growing deeper in their faith and growing into better humans that are successful in the working world.” 

St. Francis of Assisi had a brother/sister tandem take home national honors. Eighth grader Joshua Bacolod finished in 3rd place in Social Studies. His younger sister, 6th grader Julianna, took home 1st place in Religion. 

Jennifer Pigott, the Academic Decathlon chair at St. Francis, acknowledged that an event like this give students who do not participate in athletics the opportunity to shine in a different way. 

“They practice, practice, practice like athletes do, they put in the time and effort and then they have this big competition,” says Pigott. “They get to have that honor and reward of winning.” 

St. Junipero Serra School also had two students reach the national rankings. Eighth grader Kamia Rivera finished in 1st place in Literature, and 7th grader Bryson Bisuna took 2nd place in Math. The extensive training and preparation led by teacher coaches and parent volunteers have shown the school’s team members how to be cohesive. 

“You see more of this idea of trust and team, unity and community,” says St. Junipero Serra Academic Decathlon Coordinator Noah Loungarikis. “They have the set up to be successful, so it’s up to them to take the opportunity and run with it.”