PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A team of seniors from Taft High School in Woodland Hills defeated 38 other schools Saturday to win the nationally televised final event of the U.S. Academic Decathlon.
The nine-member Taft team, representing California, scored 25 out of a possible 30 points to win the Super Quiz, the only event in the contest open to the public. In past years, the winner of the Super Quiz has gone on to win the national title.
Taft team members cheered and leaped into the air after learning they had won the Super Quiz, defeating their chief rival, Texas state champion Deer Park High, a suburban Houston school. The Taft team last year finished second in both the Super Quiz and the national contest to former Texas champions, J. J. Pearce High School of Richardson, a suburb of Dallas.
"I was surprised at how hard it was," said team member Andrew Goodman of the battery of seven written tests that led up to the Super Quiz on Saturday. "But whatever happens, at least it's all over."
Goodman's team members said that after nine months of study as well as two contests to win the Los Angeles County and state titles, they are relieved that their academic decathlon obligations are over.
The Taft team must wait until Monday for the announcement of overall winner of the academic decathlon by contest officials. The only previous California winner was Los Angeles' Marshall High School in 1986.
The Super Quiz score is the only one released before tomorrow's awards luncheon. The students are competing for $30,000 in scholarship money that will be awarded to top scoring individuals.
The other tests in the academic decathlon are in mathematics, geography, fine arts, literature, science and economics. Students are also graded on prepared and impromptu speeches as well as interviews and essays.
"I think I did well but the math test was impossible," said Taft team member Marc Sarti, who was the top scorer among all students competing in the state finals last month.
In the Super Quiz, students answered questions for their team in front of about 300 cheering spectators who packed the gymnasium of the Community College of Rhode Island. The event was televised in cities nationwide, including Los Angeles, over public TV stations.
The Taft team took an early lead in the 45-question Super Quiz, correctly answering the first 22 questions in a row. The team's final tally is based on the scores of the top six team members, who were each given five questions and could score a possible total of 30 points.