OAKDALE -- At Oakdale High, it's not who you know but what you know that counts.
The school's academic decathlon team is competing for the 10th straight year in the state finals.
The California Academic Decathlon is this weekend in Sacramento. Oakdale will be among 60 teams from across the state competing in such subjects as literature, economics and mathematics.
The teams also will match wits and brainpower on the French Revolution, the theme of this year's academic decathlon.
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After months of studying and getting by on little sleep, Oakdale's nine-member team is ready for the big time.
"We can tell you about a lot of dates, regimes and names involving the French Revolution," joked team member Daniel Dunning.
Oakdale earned the right to go to Sacramento after winning the Stanislaus County Academic Decathlon on Feb. 6, topping 14 other high school teams.
Each team consists of three honors students (GPA of 3.75 or higher), three scholastic students (GPA of 3.0 to 3.74) and three varsity students (GPA of 2.99 or lower).
This year's Oakdale team has eight newcomers, is ranked 12th among the 60 schools competing this year and is the only Stanislaus County team in the state competition.
Last year's team finished fifth, Oakdale's highest result.
"I'd love to see a top 10 finish this year since we are going in 12th," said Lissa Jones, an Oakdale High history teacher and second-year coach of the team.
For months, team members have balanced the demands of AP classes, sports and other extracurricular activities along with studying at least two dozen hours a week for the academic decathlon.
"We get just enough sleep to get us by," team member Robby Anderson said.
Team members joked that some classmates see them as the kids who like to study or as super nerds. But they say that's not the point.
Success in the academic decathlon requires them to quickly assimilate large amounts of information in little time, hone their analytic and critical thinking skills by writing an essay, and think on their feet in the speech and interview competitions.
"It prepares them for life," Jones said. "These skills are invaluable when they head off to college."
But the weekend in Sacramento will include more than tests. The kids and their adult chaperones will be staying at the Hyatt in downtown, and the kids have a per diem for meals. Sunday dinner will be at P.F. Chang's.
"We've heard it's so much fun," Kyle Ridenour said about going to the state championship.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2316.