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Battle of the brains

Local schools win divisions in academic decathlon

Posted: February 12, 2009 11:51 p.m.
Updated: February 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Four local high schools flexed their mind muscles in the Los Angeles County Academic Decathlon Thursday. One school even made history.

Golden Valley, Saugus, West Ranch and Vasquez high schools competed in the academic decathlon that pitted 66 schools against each other in a battle of the minds, said Tracy Kane, West Ranch High School teacher and academic decathlon coach.

"This had all the intensity of a sporting event," Kane said.

Saugus and Wests Ranch high school finished first in Division II and III, respectively, while Golden Valley finished 15th in Division I.

West Ranch High School recorded the highest score in the competition's history for a first-time competitor and secured the Rookie of the Year award, Kane said.

Vasquez High School didn't crack the top 30 overall, but showed the most improvement by scoring 15,000 points higher than its 2008 tally.

The divisions are determined by the previous year's score. West Ranch High was placed in Division III because this was the school's first competition.

"We swept all the high scores and our division. After we found out we won, we were pretty ecstatic," said Anish Sawant, West Ranch High School senior.

The two-day event is patterned after a sporting decathlon.

Participants compete in 10 different academic events including: speech, interview essay, math, art, music, social sciences, economics, literature and language and the super quiz.

"The super quiz is the last round and the topic changes each year. This year it was evolutionary biology," Kane said. The theme of the other nine topics was Latin America.

"So the economic questions were about Latin American economics," Kane said.

Kane and her team are excited about the West Ranch team's chances next year.

"It went well; each of us had at least about five medals. I enjoyed it, and it was a great experience. I think we are moving up a division. Academic Decathlon has helped me work better in a team," said Barr Benyamin, West Ranch High School senior.

Signal intern and West Ranch High School senior Elston He contributed to this report.


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