Granada Hills High School has been one of the Valley’s top competitors in state and national prep academic decathlons, and the charter school is already showing it will be tough to beat again in 2015.
The Highlanders had a historic team performance at the recent Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) Academic Decathlon, scoring 59,167.1 points earned out of a possible 65,400. It was the highest total ever recorded for a regional, state or national competition, according to Cliff Ker, LAUSD’s Academic Decathlon coordinator.
In addition, Ker said, Granada Hills Charter senior Irene Lee, who also competed on the team last year, received the highest individual score this year with 9,461.4 points — which tied her for the all-time individual record that was set by a Moorpark student at the state competition in 2009. Lee, who was also on the Highlanders team last year, was one of several students in the contest who scored more than 9,000 points.
El Camino Real Charter High School finished second with 58,223.0 points. North Hollywood High School was eighth with 46,232.2 points; Van Nuys High and Grant high schools were ninth and 10th with 46,058.7 and 45,459.3 points, respectively.
The event was held at Hollywood High School on Feb. 13.
The four Valley schools and seven other LAUSD schools move on to compete in the state decathlon, scheduled for March 20-21 in Sacramento. The national decathlon takes place April 16-18 in Garden Grove. But this year only one team from each state will be allowed to advance to the national competition, unlike in years past when several teams from one state could qualify. Schools that are not state champions could still compete in an online competition.
Ker lauded all the participants for their dedication and preparation.
“In addition to the difficult academic courses they take, [the students] stay after school for hours to prepare for the competition,” Ker said. “That includes weekends and vacations. It’s like athletes getting to the playoffs. The team that wins the World Series doesn’t just start having batting practice two weeks before.”
El Camino Real is the defending national champion. Before that Granada Hills won three straight titles in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Besides Lee, members of the winning Granada Hills team include Peter Cho, Jenean Docter, Natalie Gonzalez, Jasmin Kim, Tanthai Pongstien, Fernando Sanchez and Jorge Zepeda.