El Diamante takes home Tulare County Academic Decathlon win

El Diamante takes home Tulare County Academic Decathlon win

VISALIA – El Diamante High School will represent Tulare County at the State Academic Decathlon next month following their win at the 2022 Tulare County Academic Decathlon’s final round Saturday, Feb. 5.

El Diamante won the Super Quiz competition and the Tulare County large school category along with the overall title. Saturday’s title was the fourth consecutive and fifth overall win for the team, which is coached by El Diamante teacher Mikk Jolly. 

The team’s president and captain, Taylor Bennett, placed first in the social science, music, and interview categories.

“I’ve learned a lot from doing this, like learning to be patient with yourself and learning how to study,” Bennett said. “With the stress comes a lot of reward, and just being able to see everyone genuinely excited to be there and learn all of these things–I remember a few of our new people had just joined, and they were super nervous at the beginning of the year. But then I saw them getting their awards on Saturday and saw how accomplished they looked and felt, and honestly, that was just one of the greatest feelings.”

One of these new members was senior Ludwin Barraza Rivera, who started practicing with El Diamante’s team in September. 

“I honestly didn’t think I was going to win anything at all,” said Barraza Rivera, who ended up earning medals in music, art, science, economics, social science, literature and mathematics. He moved to Visalia from Mexico at the beginning of his freshman year and started at El Diamante as an English language learner. 

“I felt like an alien because I didn’t fit in. It was scary,” Barraza Rivera said. “I didn’t think I’d be able to speak English at the same level as everyone else. But by my junior year I was able to take AP Language, which was really cool.” 

Barraza Rivera is being awarded by El Diamante’s English department this year for his exponential growth over his high school career. He said his favorite part of academic decathlon is having the opportunity to learn college-level material. 

El Diamante team members Karen Gerges and Patrick Oliver also took home first place in speech and art respectively.

“The best part of academic decathlon is getting to hang out with the team, enjoying it together, going through it together,” said Oliver, who is the team’s vice president. 

Sofia Biago of Granite Hills High School in Porterville placed first in the economics, literature, science, and essay categories, earning her spot as the competition’s top Honor Division student. Daniel Gomez and Christopher Andersen of Granite Hills also took home the titles of top students, Gomez in the Scholastic division and Andersen in Varsity. 

Angel Gutierrez of Dinuba High School won first place in mathematics, the only top score awarded to a student who wasn’t representing El Diamante or Granite Hills. The award for top team in the Tulare County small school category was given to Orosi High School. 

The state Academic Decathlon championship will be held virtually from March 1-12. The students from El Diamante who will be representing Tulare County at the championship are Taylor Bennett, Patrick Oliver, Ludwin Barraza Rivera, Samuel Garland, Angela Cruz, Evelyne Prado, Lavina Angel, and Alex Dowdy.

“It will be kind of strange being online again but I know that I have a lot of faith in our team and a lot of confidence in all of us, and we’ll get through it together,” said Bennett. “We’ve all learned to be open and vulnerable with each other and that we can ask each other for help, and that’s been one of my favorite things. We’ve just been becoming more of a family rather than a team.”

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