They did it … again. The power heads from Granada Hills Charter High School on Saturday won their sixth national Academic Decathlon championship in seven years.
The Granada Highlanders defeated a Highland Park, Texas, team in Madison, Wisconsin, to clinch the 2017 U.S. Academic Decathlon title.
The battle of the wits since Wednesday was announced just after 10:30 a.m. Saturday at a national AcaDeca awards banquet, giving California its 15th straight win since 2003.
“We’re very excited,” said Jonathan Sturtevant, one of three coaches for the powerhouse team, afterward. “Amazed. Excited. Crazy. I can’t believe it.
“These kids are amazing. Very amazing.”
The nine-member AcaDeca squad, also coached by Rachel Phipps and recent Granada graduate Harsimar Dhanoa, a former decathlete, had spent up to 12 hours a day on prep.
Their topic for 2017: World War II and its milestones, from the Nazi invasion of Poland to the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki, Japan.
They scored 54,507.7 out of a possible 60,000 points.
“The entire L.A. Unified family is extremely proud of your victory and stalwart commitment to teamwork,” said Superintendent Michelle King, in a statement. “You are all fine examples of champions.”
Students were judged on multiple choice tests on subjects from literature to economics, essays, interviews, speeches on a subject of their choice, and a group Super Quiz.
As in all AcaDeca teams, this year’s Highlanders included three A students, three B students and three averaging C grades, plus three alternates who compete individually.
The winner of this year’s Los Angeles district and California championships put in 10 to 12 hours of group study a day to get good enough to win the U.S. championship, their coaches say. Each student supports another in a buddy system.
The national champs include Mark Aguila, Jordan Barretto, Sabrina Carlos, Sebastian Gonzalez, Kevin Ly, Christopher Lo, Aishah Mahmud, Melissa Santos and Peter Shin. Alternates were Justin Chiang, Dilawar Khan and Sarah Jay Thraen.
Ly’s older sister Kimberly, and Mahmud’s older sister Hamidah, were members of Granada’s 2013 national championship team.
“It’s one of the best days of my life,” said Gonzalez, 17, of North Hollywood, a high school junior who trained 11 months for the victory. “I’ve never done anything particularly well. So to win a national title is incredible.”
The three-day national competition featured more than 500 students, with 32 teams from the United States, 18 from China, two from Canada and two from the United Kingdom.
Since 1986, Los Angeles Unified School District schools have won 18 national championships.
“We’re celebrating, said Cliff Ker, LAUSD’s Academic Decathlon coordinator, who retires July 1. “You know, it’s very exciting to be with these kids, to meet their parents, to know how hard they work. It’s very gratifying.
“It’s just amazing, for administrators and parents and the kids — it’s just the right combination for student success.”
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