Torrey Pines High School placed sixth and Patrick Henry High School placed seventh Monday in the grueling battle of the brains known as the Academic Decathlon, while a high school from the Los Angeles Unified School District captured first place.
The high-IQ team from John Marshall High School captured the state championship, officials announced. The victory marked the first time that a school from the Los Angeles Unified School District has won the 8-year-old annual competition. It gave Marshall a spot in the national finals next month.
Palo Alto High School, a previous state champion, was second. Beverly Hills High school, the state winner for the previous three years, placed third this year.
The decathlon is divided into three main categories: honors, for students earning straight A's; scholastic, for students with a B average; and varsity, for students with a C average. Each category is then divided into subject areas.
Sacha Dublin, a Torrey Pines honors junior, scored the second highest number of points in the state. Dublin also had the highest individual score in the fine arts subject category. Andy Charman, a Torrey Pines senior in the honors category, earned the top score in the math category.
From Patrick Henry, honors senior Wayne Wu placed first in science. Patrick Henry's representative in the scholastic category, Tara Shannon, a senior, finished in first place in the language and literature category, and the school's representative in varsity, Jon Gruber, a senior, came in first place in fine arts.
In an entire day of testing Saturday at California State University, Sacramento, contestants on 46 teams from around California took written tests in such subjects as Renaissance art, constitutional law, science and math. That was followed by a round of judged speeches and interviews and topped by the Super Quiz, a high-tension event similar to television's "College Bowl."
According to the results announced Monday at a luncheon in Sacramento, Marshall's team garnered a total of 47,772 points out of a possible 60,000. Palo Alto's score was 46,876. Beverly Hills scored 44,129. Torrey Pine's team scored 43,145, and Patrick Henry's team came up with 42,578 points.
"We are going to find a way to put it together and win the nationals. We are going to study our butts off," said Marshall's coach, David Tokofsky, who described his team as "ecstatic" over the victory and celebrating in their Sacramento hotel rooms.
Team member Howard Wu said the Marshall group was afraid that Palo Alto might slip ahead in the final round. "This is great," said Wu, a senior. "If we lost, I think we all would have gone insane. We studied so hard for this."
The victory was especially sweet, team members and Marshall administrators said, because Marshall does not have a very affluent student body compared to most of the previous state and city winners. Marshall has held the Los Angeles city title for two years, breaking a four-year domination by Palisades High School in the well-to-do Pacific Palisades.
Marshall's principal, Donald Hahn, said that about half of his students come from low-income neighborhoods in Silver Lake and East Hollywood. "It's nice to beat schools where they are totally affluent," he said.
Donald Primrose, executive director of the California Academic Decathlon, said Monday that he believes Marshall has an "excellent" chance of winning the national competition, which is scheduled for April 25 in Irving, Tex., near Dallas.
Boosting that chance is the fact that the national champion for the past two years, J. J. Pearce High School of Richardson, Tex., recently lost its state finals and will not be in this year's nationals.
Primrose attributed Marshall's state victory to Tokofsky's assembling a group of well-rounded students and to the students' strong desire to beat Beverly Hills. Since the school year began, team members prepared for the city and state competitions in a special class each school day and often at night and on weekends, cramming their heads with the facts and forms of hydrogen bonding, Renaissance painting, quadratic equations and Shakespearean sonnets.
Times staff writer Hector Gutierrez contributed to this story.