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Moorpark, Simi Share 4th Place in Super Quiz

Education: Nearly 400 students from around the state are competing in California Academic Decathlon. The overall winner will be announced today.


LOS ANGELES — Academic Decathlon teams from Simi Valley and Moorpark high schools were among five schools that shared fourth-place honors in the oral portion of the Super Quiz event, according to preliminary results.

"We've just been studying for eight or nine months now and now we're done taking tests," said James Marlier, 18, a Moorpark High team member. "And we'll see how it comes out." As defending national decathlon champion, Moorpark High faced strong competition from several schools, including Simi Valley, during the second grueling day of the 21st annual California Academic Decathlon.

On Saturday evening at Loyola Marymount University, the teams competed in the public portion of the Super Quiz, a fast-paced, college-bowl-type event where students quickly write out answers in front of an audience.

About 400 students from 50 California high schools are battling it out for the title of state champion. The final winner of the Super Quiz and the overall decathlon winner will be named at a banquet today at the LAX Marriott Hotel.

The state victor goes on to next month's national finals in San Antonio.

Taking first place in the public portion of the Super Quiz was Bishop Alemany High of Mission Hills, which captured 56 points out of a possible 60. El Camino Real of Woodland Hills was second with 55 points, and Burbank was third with 52.

In addition to Simi Valley and Moorpark, the other fourth-place finishers, with 51 points each, were Los Angeles, Palisades Charter and Laguna Hills high schools.

There was a three-way tie for fifth place with Palos Verdes Peninsula, Marshall and San Pedro high schools each capturing 50 points.

A win in the Super Quiz, however, does not guarantee victory as overall champion, some students added.

"This oral Super Quiz is only 5% of the entire score. And we feel very confident about the rest," said Simi Valley High team member Jeff Robertson, 18.

During the two-day decathlon, students delivered speeches, gave interviews, wrote essays and took tests in music, math, literature, economics, art and social studies. The written test portion of the Super Quiz was on Friday, and students answered questions about this year's theme "The Sustainable Earth."

The stakes are high: Simi Valley is among four California schools--including last year's national champion Moorpark High School, Los Angeles High School and the San Fernando Valley's El Camino Real High School--that are considered top contenders for the state title.

Competition between the Simi Valley and Moorpark teams was especially keen this year.

While Moorpark beat teams from 38 states to win the national title last year, Simi Valley High won the Ventura County contest last month and is ranked No. 1 in the nation based on those scores.

"It's very scary," said Simi Valley co-coach Ken Hibbitts. "Any one question, too long of a pause in a speech . . . any of those things could be the difference between No. 1 and No. 2."

The Simi Valley and Moorpark teams spent Saturday afternoon with last-minute prep sessions for their speeches and the Super Quiz.

Simi Valley set up base camp at a Westchester High picnic table littered with water bottles and burger wrappers. Here, the team staged its attack, with team members in suits pacing with their noses buried in study guides.

Others rehearsed speeches, sometimes raising their voices to be heard over the jets from nearby LAX.

Randy Xu, 17, of Simi Valley said a shot at the state title is important because he is a senior.

"I've done this enough, it's not a major issue anymore," he said confidently.

Just a few miles away, the defending champions from Moorpark High were eating lunch and studying at the LAX Marriott Hotel.

"It's going to be very close," said Moorpark coach Michelle Bergman. The four top teams "all want to represent California."

In this war of knowledge where students are tested as much on their poise and panache as their ability to crunch numbers and cram facts, the students braved nervous tummies and wracked brains to come out on top. But they have a great time doing it, Bergman said.

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