For the second time in a row, Granada Hills Charter High School took first place at the California Academic Decathlon, scoring 52,327.4 points out of a possible 60,000 and beating 64 other high school teams in the statewide competition.
The statewide decathlon competition includes planned 4-minute speeches, 2-minute impromptu speeches, multiple-choice tests across a wide spectrum of subjects, and 50 minutes for an impromptu essay, notes CBS2.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Granada Hills decathlon coach Nick Weber marveled at his team, saying, "the intensity with which they've worked was something I've never seen before... With teenagers, sometimes it's difficult to keep that motivation."
Students Lev Tauz, Sean Wejebe, Hamidah Maumuch, Christian Koguchi, Priscilla Liu, Kimberly Ly, Jimmy Wu, Stella Lee and Julia Wall were part of this year's winning team. They started working together last June, spending two to three days a week together over the summer to prepare. When the academic year started, they were part of a special decathlon class during the last school period that extended into the evenings, often ending at 5:30 or 6:30 p.m.
In the end, the grueling schedule proved worthwhile. Now the Granada Hills Team is set to represent California at the United States Academic Decathlon Competition in April, where they will defend their national title in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Like all California decathlon groups, Granada Hills' nine-member team is made up of three "Honor" students (3.75 GPA and above), three "Scholastic" students (3.00-3.74 GPA) and three "Varsity" students (2.99 GPA and below). Because the decathlon program is about drawing the best from a diverse group of students, Ly told the Los Angeles Times that part of the challenge is to "learn what motivates each other and gets us going."
"It's not like Science Bowl, where you can pick your best science kids and pit them against each other," Weber added to HuffPost.
In total, the Los Angeles Unified school district sent a record 13 teams to the state competition this year -- an achievement overshadowed by the fact that the school board recently voted to slash funding to the decathlon program in the event of a worst-case scenario budget crisis.
"I think its a bit short-sighted to cut it," said Weber. Instead of cutting the programs, the board should expand the teams, he said. "Educating our students isn't just going to come from some cookie cutter curriculum. Kids need creativity in their lives, and exposure to ideas that are revolutionary and life-changing."
Do you think you have what it takes to be a decathlete? Test yourself with KPCC's list of sample questions from past academic decathlons.