Photo: Sarah Kwaon

If any team was going to knock off Granada Hills Charter High as the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) Academic Decathlon champion, it figured to be a school with its own championship pedigree.

El Camino Real Charter High accomplished that feat by scoring 60,714.0 out of a possible score of 65,880.0 points to win the district’s 37th annual competition, besting Granada Hills and 55 other schools.

The results were announced on Feb. 11 at Belmont High School.

“The reason for our success? That’s easy — teamwork,” noted El Camino Real teacher and team coach Stephanie Franklin, who is in her 10th year of helping students prepare for the event.

“It’s an amazingly balanced team. They just work well together as a unit. This group” — consisting of students Inesh Ahuja, Ashtar Fayoumi, Matthew Fitzmorris, Briana Lincoln, Rachel Markenson, Nolan Origer, Avery Tamura, Maya Teitz and Trevor Winnard—  “has that great fire for work. You know you have a special team when you have to throw them out of the workroom late at night.”

The team members also did exceptionally well individually. Teitz had the top score in the Honors Division (grade-point average of 3.75 and above) with a total of 9,650.0 points; Fitzmorris was the highest scoring student in the Scholastic Division (GPA 3.00-3.74) with 9,290.0 points; and Winnard led all students in the Varsity Division (GPA 2.99 and below) with 9,518.4 points. 

Franklin said she had “a feeling” during the announcement of the final team point totals that El Camino Real was going to win.

“We were counting and calculating,” Franklin said. “I knew it would be close, but I really thought it was our turn this year.”

Granada Hills, the current three-time defending state and national champion, finished second with 60,127.4 points. It was followed by Franklin High of Los Angeles with 58,103.4 points, Grant High with 50,975.9 points and Bell High with 50,736.3 points.

El Camino Real won its first district decathlon in 1989 and has now won 12 district titles overall. From 1998-2002 the school won the Decathlon and nabbed the state and national championship crowns in 1998 and 2001. The school last won the state and national championships in 2014.

The Conquistadors have won seven national championships. The Highlanders have won six.

Franklin expects the upcoming state and national decathlons to be as pressure-packed, especially with Granada Hills in the mix.

“Our kids all know each other. They have the same piano teachers and go to the same churches,” she said.

“And this year has been exciting because the top 10-20 finishing schools had come here to work and scrimmage with us over the summer. We all worked for each other and inspired each other.”

This subject of this year’s decathlon, which is broken into 10 separate competitions, was Africa. The individual events were in speech, prepared and impromptu interviews, essay, art, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music, social science and the “Super Quiz” written and oral relay.

Granada Hills won the “Super Quiz” event.

El Camino Real Charter and the 13 other top-scoring district high schools now move on to the California Academic Decathlon, scheduled March 23-25 in Sacramento.

Also headed to the state capitol are teams from Granada Hills, Franklin, Grant, Bell, Garfield, Van Nuys, Cleveland Charter, Palisades Charter, Chatsworth, North Hollywood, Hamilton, Valley Academy of Arts & Sciences, and Narbonne.

Since 1987, LAUSD schools have won 22 state contests and 17 national titles.