Yet another win comes for the Los Banos Unified School District as Westside Union Elementary’s Academic Pentathlon team of 12 won the county and statewide competition for sixth and seventh grade on April 29 held at the Merced Theatre.
This win marks the 12th year in a row for the sixth-grade team to win the county-wide title for sixth grade. One of the 12, Max Menefee, beat all other students in the competition and won Top Scoring Student.
The 12 Westside students are all sixth-graders and were coached by Tammi Schultz. Westside has been invited to Nationals and will compete in the seventh-grade division. The national level has only seventh and eighth divisions so Westside will compete as seventh-graders.
As the Nationals are being held in Garden Grove, California this year, a special invitation was given to the state to send its top-scoring teams and Westside happens to be one of them. The team is set to face off in the national competition on May 18. No other Merced County team has gone to the Nationals level.
The Academic Pentathlon is considered the little brother to the Academic Decathlon and focuses on sixth through eighth grades. The Academic Pentathlon begins at the county level and progresses to the state level. The scores are tallied up statewide to decide who gets a chance at Nationals.
Teams are split into three divisions based on their GPA, Honors, Scholastic, and Varsity divisions. Students study five subjects over the course of the year, with a focus on this year’s theme of ‘American Revolution and the New Nation’.
The Literature and Social Studies subject was studied by reading non-fiction and fiction pieces like The Declaration of Independence and Thomas Paine’s “The Crisis.” The Fine Arts subject studied revolutionary period art and music.
The mathematics subject studied was algebra II and trigonometry. The science subject studied was chemistry. After being tested on these subjects, students participate in a Super Quiz.
The students began training in November, with meetings every day after school, during lunch, and sometimes on weekends. According to an interview with Schultz, the students studied 1,000 pages of material.
“Most of them won’t see this material again until tenth grade,” Schultz said. “They have learned that if they really persevere through, push through, and stay dedicated to it, that it will work out in the end. The winning is great but, I think the life lessons they take home are even better.”
Max Menefee said, “Every day we trained… personally, I trained around four hours a day, it was intense.”
The entire team showed their dedication at the event, four out of five top scorers were all from the Westside team.
Menefee, the top-scoring student in the competition, is a native of Los Banos, with roots going back four to five generations. He is only 12 and already a published author.
Regarding Max, Schultz commented, “[He’s] a great student… Max beat all the seventh-graders, and all the eighth-graders.”
Max had this to say about his experience, “The thought we might not get anything, was pretty scary. It was a lot of fun. Hard work, but a lot of fun… [we] can’t wait to go to Nationals.”
The subject Max struggled with the most was Chemistry. “Everybody in my class just couldn’t understand it… but Ms. Schultz helped us understand it,” he said.
For context, Chemistry is a high school subject that many students at the high school level actively avoid for its complexity. Max’s favorite subject in the competition was history.
“This history was just fun because it’s our history,” he said.
The effort put in to win such an accolade wasn’t just a team effort, it was a teaching feat as well, Schultz put in as much effort as any of the kids.
According to Max and his mother(Chuan Menefee), she’s an excellent teacher. Her dedication shows with her string of successes over a decade long, winning 12 years in a row at least at the county-wide level, all of which she was the coach of the team.
Chuan Menefee, regarding Schultz, said, “She’s fun to be around and she knows how to teach. She’s really incredible.”
Schultz also teaches her own class at Westside Union in addition to coaching the pentathlon team of 12 through 1000 pages of material.