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Saugus Academic Decathlon team wins Division-II title

School also takes home ‘Third Most Improved’ in competition

Posted: February 24, 2009 11:34 p.m.
Updated: February 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Saugus Academic Decathlon team and director Vilo Del Rio. The Saugus team placed higher than any other in the William S. Hart Union High School district. Saugus Academic Decathlon team and director Vilo Del Rio. The Saugus team placed higher than any other in the William S. Hart Union High School district.
Saugus Academic Decathlon team and director Vilo Del Rio. The Saugus team placed higher than any other in the William S. Hart Union High School district.
The academic decathlon teams of Saugus, Golden Valley and West Ranch high schools finished in the top 20 overall against 66 other schools in the annual Los Angeles County Academic Decathlon.

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.

Saugus High School ranked 14th overall. Saugus won the Division-II title with a total of 37,484.5 points and was named “Third Most Improved School,” improving from 26th place last year to 14th this year.

Kyungwon Lee, the highest overall scorer in Saugus with 7,153.8 points, won silver in art and essay, gold in interview and placed second as the top scorer in the Honors Group in Division II.

“I came into the competition with no expectations — being my last year as a senior to compete in academic decathlon, I was only hoping to see improved scores for my team,” Chelsea Stevenson said. “Seeing the time we took to study translate into the dozens of medals that we won as a collective team made this year my best. Ending my three-year participation in such success is nothing less than amazing.”

Saugus ranked second place in the Super Quiz with 3,855.0 points.

“The theme of this year’s Super Quiz was evolutionary biology, which was a difficult topic for us,” said Saugus academic decathlon director Vilo Del Rio.

Golden Valley
Golden Valley High School ranked 19th overall and nine members earned 10 medals in Division I.

“This year we only had two returning members, so it was a building year for the new students,” said Golden Valley Academic Decathlon director Dana Bobek.

Bobek has been actively involved in Academic Decathlon since 2000 when she first started teaching at Saugus.

“I had to sacrifice a lot of time and sleep on weekends and open periods,” junior Kristine Tan said. Tan said the team held group study nights at her house to go through as many topics as possible and quiz each other continuously.

Tan, the highest scoring decathlete in Santa Clarita with 7,339.3 points, brought home bronze in essay and interview.  

“The curriculum we were being tested on was very specific, so we knew what material to study and review,” third-year decathlete Arjun Avila said. “Group studies were helpful, but independent research was needed as well.”

West Ranch
West Ranch High School, which scored 37,450 points, was named the “Rookie School of the Year” and ranked 15th overall.

“We won 49 medals across nine students, and that’s phenomenal,” said West Ranch Academic Decathlon director Tracy Kane.

Because West Ranch was a first-year participant this year, it had to compete in Division III, beating every school in Division III and Division II, but falling short behind Division-II winner, Saugus, by 34 points. West Ranch also won the Division-III title and the highest initial showing.

“I’m looking forward to a different level of commitment [next year],” Kane said. “It was my first year of coaching Academic Decathlon, but now I know how much to push them by balancing having fun and pushing them to do better.”

Kane continued, “However, my biggest concern for next year’s team is fundraising and the availability of funds to purchase curriculum, transportation and competition fees.”

Senior Anish Sawant, the highest-scoring decathlete on the West Ranch team, won bronze in language and literature; silver in essay, math and economics; gold in interview and speech; and placed first in the Honors division.

“This is my second year of doing Academic Decathlon, but it was my first year doing it at West Ranch,” Sawant said. “However, the experience at this school was different because we are a new school.”

Seven of the nine West Ranch decathletes — Kristopher Miles, David Lee, Barr Benyamin, Erwin Carl, William Kidd and Spencer Saunders — ranked within top nine of Division III.

“Academic Decathlon is a big deal in the valley because in the past, we haven’t been this strong. We did not have as many schools competing in the Academic Decathlon back then,” Kane said. “Bobek helped get everything started, and that was important because now we have more competitive scores, and we’re just breaking out.”

Each team was broken down into three groups: honors, scholastic and varsity. The honors group consisted of students with an unweighted grade point average of 3.75-4.0; scholastic students have a gpa of 3.0 to 3.74; and varsity from 0.0 to 2.99. Schools with relatively the most experience and high scores were placed in Division I, schools with average scores in Division II, and schools with lower scores or rookie schools in Division III.

On the first day of competition Jan. 31, the decathletes were tested on speech, interview and essay. The remaining seven subjects — art, economics, literature and language, math, music, science, and social science — were tested the following weekend.

The results were announced at the awards banquet on Feb. 12 at the Quiet Cannon Country Club in Montebello.


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