FRIENDSWOOD — The drought is over. After going five years without, the academic decathlon team from Friendswood is once again the best in Texas.

The nine-member team won the state championship in the medium school division at the Texas Academic Decathlon state tournament in San Antonio over the weekend. It was Friendswood’s 17th state title — more than any other school in the state — and its first since 2007.

“We had some great kids and great parental support,” Renae Simons, the team’s coach said.

The Friendswood team scored 50,932.7 points, besting Highland Park by more than 2,400 points to secure the state championship. Simons, who started the academic decathlon program at Friendswood High School in the 1980s, came out of retirement four years ago to help the program regain its winning swagger.

This was Simons’ third tour as coach after having retired from coaching twice.

Technology, particularly iPads provided by a grant through the Friendswood school foundation, helped the students.

“Technology played a huge role,” Simons said. “The team (members) could download tests no matter where they were, even on the bus on the way to San Antonio.”

The win was nice, but the scholarship money that came with it was even better.

Friendswood’s haul for winning state was $20,800 of the $50,000 in prize money, Simons said.

Each team member was given a $1,200 scholarship and got extra cash for how they finished in individual competitions.

Drew Hopf’s first-place finish in the varsity division won him a bonus $3,500 scholarship.

Derek Janak, who took second place in the honors division, took home a bonus $2,500 scholarship as did Zach Cocetti, who took second in the scholastic division, while David Snowden finished second in the varsity division.

Julia Lu took home an extra $2,000 for a third-place finish in the honors division.

Friendswood narrowly missed advancing to nationals, Simons said, but she hopes the team will be able to compete in the e-nationals, which is an online version of the nationals competition.

The team has been practicing for the competition since Labor Day with 7:30 a.m. daily drills, weekend tournaments and after-school sessions.

“The wins come to the teams that work the hardest,” Simons said.

The Clear Creek school district’s Clear Lake High School, which competed in the large school divisions, finished in fifth place.

At a glance

Individual honors for the Friendswood Academic Decathlon team:

Zach Cocetti: First in math, language and literature and art; second place music.

Bryan Holcomb: First place in economics; second in math, language and literature and music.

Chase Ehrig: Second place math.

Drew Hopf: First place speech (perfect score); second place math, language and literature, music, art and social science.

David Snowden: Second place math, third place language and literature, music. 

Derek Janak: First place music; second place language and literature, science, economics and third place social science.

Julia Lu: First place music; second place social science; third place science.

Kim Hall: Honors in economics.

Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or


(1) comment

Robert Buckner

Congratulations Friendswood High School team and coach! Your hard work has been rewarded.

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