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VENTURA COUNTY ROUNDUP | Simi Valley / Moorpark

Decathlon Teams Get Jump on Studies


Academic decathlon teams from Simi Valley and Moorpark high schools hit the road and the books Tuesday on their way to the state championships in Los Angeles.

Competition begins Friday morning, but both teams slipped out of town on buses two days early to get in some additional studying in the solitude of their rooms at the Marriott hotel near Los Angeles International Airport.

Simi Valley High's team ranks first in California, with Moorpark, last year's national champions, ranked second.

Simi Valley students stepped up studying to improve in areas--such as music and literature--where they didn't do so well, even as they won the county championship last month. Moorpark was second.

Simi Valley's team captain said the team's experience keeps them calm.

"A lot of the nervousness has been burnt out of us," said Mike Truex, 17, a senior. "We know what to expect."

In addition to Moorpark, Los Angeles and El Camino Real high schools finished close behind Simi Valley in total points in their competition last month.

The Simi Valley team took a break from the books and snacked on pizza before leaving for the competition Tuesday afternoon.

Moorpark left Tuesday morning after meeting with Larry Jones, who coached the national champions in 1999 before stepping down in the summer. Jones gave the team the traditional good luck charm: a can of Spam that has been handed down over the last three years.

Moorpark team members have spent the last month working on their essay-writing skills, an area they did poorly in during the county competition, said Michelle Bergman, Moorpark's coach.

The winner of the state competition this weekend will advance to the national championships in Texas next month.

Competition kicks off Friday at the Marriott when the teams write essays in a closed session. On Saturday, both teams will give speeches and interviews at Westchester High School. Later Saturday, they will participate in the Super Quiz, a game-show-like competition, at Loyola Marymount University that is open to the public. The state champions will be crowned during closing ceremonies Sunday in the Marriott's ballroom.

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