SACRAMENTO — In victory and in defeat, the Academic Decathlon brings out the inner warrior in almost all of its nearly 500 competitors. Moorpark High School, which captured the state title here Monday, was no exception.
"I beat my brother by 16 points," said Moorpark senior Christie Calle, who compiled the most points in the Varsity division made up of A students. Her brother, Colin, placed second in that group.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, March 14, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 65 words Type of Material: Correction
Decathlon: An article in Tuesday's California section about Moorpark High School's victory in the state Academic Decathlon said Moorpark senior Christie Calle and her brother, Colin, finished first and second, respectively, in the Varsity division and described that category as made up of A students. The Calles' division, Varsity, is for students with a C average. The category for A students is the Honor division.
Fifty-four teams competed over the weekend in 10 events, ranging from speeches and interviews to math. Each team has up to nine members representing A, B and C students.
The Super Quiz is the only event open to the public; North Hollywood High was announced as the winner of that competition here Sunday night, but after a recount, Moorpark was given the title Monday. North Hollywood finished fifth in the overall competition.
Larry Jones has coached the Moorpark team since 1991 and came close to retiring last year. But after district officials asked him back, Jones said he couldn't refuse. "It's just too important for the kids," he said.
Jones beamed as he hugged his students, many of whom had multiple medals hanging around their necks. "This never gets old," he said.
Moorpark High Principal Kirk Miyashiro called the school in Ventura County to break the news. "Tell everyone," he said. Then he turned to Jones and said, "You're coming back next year."
If the 29th annual California Academic Decathlon was war, then the team from Granada Hills Charter High School fancied itself the brave Spartans who defended Greece from marauding invaders as depicted in the movie "300," which the students watched repeatedly.
"We're here to attack and conquer," said Caitlin Russell, a 5-foot-1 Granada Hills junior.
The team placed sixth, as it had in the local competition.
All seven Los Angeles Unified district schools that competed in the state round finished in the top 20. Palisades Charter High School in Pacific Palisades placed second, and defending national champion El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills finished third.
Before the start of the Super Quiz, in which each team member had to answer questions about the Civil War, the Granada Hills team huddled to do their Spartan war cry.
"Ah-whoo, ah-whoo, ah-whoo!" they shouted.
"They sound like a football team," said one of Granada's first-time co-coaches, Sharon Connelly-Menotiades.
Even the nearby Duarte High School team members, who had painted their faces baby blue, looked startled.
After spending almost all of Saturday taking tests, the Granada Hills team went through a final cram session Sunday morning in the hotel lobby. Some flipped through their study materials, while the others took turns going over each other with a lint comb.
Most of the Granada Hills students didn't know each other well before they began studying in the summer, but have bonded over long hours and "300" screenings.
"I love it. It's like watching a work of art . . . even though there's not much story," Caitlin said of the movie.
"There is a story!" said junior Bryon Atashian, perhaps the biggest "300" fan on the team. "It's straight from history!"
After the winners were announced at Sacramento Memorial Auditorium on Monday, the Granada Hills team seemed exhausted yet pleased. "It's sad that it's ending, but our goal was to leave with no regrets, and I think we did that," said junior Rahul Vaswani.
Palisades junior Thomas Krane kept up the competitive spirit. "We couldn't be more proud of each other right now," he said. "Maybe we'll get [Moorpark] next year."
Two-time national champion Moorpark scored 52,879.4 out of a possible 60,000 points, and will compete at the national competition in Garden Grove in May. California teams have won the last five national Academic Decathlons.
Other Moorpark team members are Jonah Buck, Anaamika Campeau, Angela Chen, Justine Levan, Chrissa Rutkai, Kris Sankaran, and Paul Watanabe.