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Ventura County

Moorpark High Turns Out to Welcome Home Its Academic Decathlon Team

April 18, 2002|JENIFER RAGLAND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Moorpark school officials had promised their Academic Decathlon team that no matter what happened at the national competition in Phoenix, they would come home to a hero's welcome.

So although the nine students on Moorpark High School's team were disappointed with their second-place finish in the U.S. Academic Decathlon last week, just 579 points behind a team from Wisconsin, they were greeted Wednesday by more than 1,800 cheering students and teachers at a morning pep rally.

"We have shared in your successes, celebrated your victories and felt your disappointments," Principal Anna Merriman said. "Through your hard work and dedication, you enabled all of us to use the term 'Moorpark High School' with great pride."

It also was a chance to celebrate the team's accomplishments at the nation's premiere scholastic contest, Merriman said, including its first-place finish in the division for large schools, defined as those with more than 1,500 students. In addition to that trophy, the squad brought home 24 gold, silver and bronze medals.

The team--seniors Michelle Kim, Julie Bristol, Dean Reich, Sergio Suarez, Sheena Sidhu, Jerome Yang, Johnny Mendoza and Andy Song and junior Nathaniel Jones--won the gold medal in the decathlon's Super Quiz event, as well as several individual awards.

Sergio, who was named the highest-scoring student from California, won a gold medal and a $1,000 scholarship for his performance in the annual two-day battle of the brains, as did Johnny. Julie won second place and a $750 college scholarship.

"We're absolutely thrilled with their accomplishments," said Phil Gore, who coordinates the Ventura County decathlon for the superintendent of schools office. "They are the neatest bunch of students I've ever met, and their intellects are rivaled only by their personalities."

Decathletes, some of whom burst into tears when their second-place finish was announced Saturday, said that being back to normal has been a huge relief, peppered with some sadness.

"It's over, so now we don't have to stay until late at night studying our brains out, but in a way I miss having that time with my teammates," said Michelle, 17, who is now focusing on making up schoolwork and getting ready for the prom and graduation. Team members watched videos together the other night and went to Starbucks--where they had spent hours poring through study material--and just talked.

"It's still disappointing we didn't come in first, but I'm getting over it," Michelle said. "Being able to meet these eight wonderful, extremely intelligent and fun people has made it all worth it. If I could, I would do it again."

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