The Granada Hills Charter High School students and coaches celebrate their seventh United States Academic Decathlon title.

Granada Hills Charter High School (GHC) has reclaimed the United States Academic Decathlon title, scoring a total of 53,108.5 points out of a possible 60,000 at the national competition held April 25-27 in Bloomington, MN.

It was the seventh national title overall for the Highlanders, who won their first championship in 2011, and the previous last title in 2018.

“We’re so excited for our team and thrilled that they competed so hard and with such dedication,” said Julia Howelman, administrative director of instruction, who supervises and supports the team and coaches. “But what is much more important and much more rewarding is seeing these students rally around each other, support each other through the tough times, not just the victories, and mature and grow as inquisitive young people.”

GHC’s Academic Decathlon team includes, in alphabetical order,  Dwaipayan Chanda (alternate), Connie Chen, Tamara Cruz, Nicole Dersahakian, Lelija Kazlauskas, Dilawar Khan, Ben LaFreniere, Kenny Ly, Jared Matsubayashi, Isabel Mercado (alternate), Ezhan Mirza, and Jasdeep Sidhu (alternate). The coaches are Alina Lee, Linda Kang, and Amy Contreras.

Academic Decathlon teams consist of nine students divided into three categories based on GPA: Honor (3.74 – 4.0), Scholastic (3.0 – 7.74) and Varsity (2.99 and less).

To earn the championship, the Highlanders finished first in the Super Quiz, the final trivia round at yesterday’s competition. The three students on the varsity team, Cruz, LaFreniere and Mirza, won college scholarships for their highest group score.

Khan, Ly and Kazlauskas won college scholarships for their highest individual scores. Jared Matsubayashi won the highest combined speech and interview score.

 “Each year a tough challenge that forces the decathletes not only to bear down and study hard but also to overcome disappointments and moments when they really are pushed to new limits. This year was no different” said Alina Lee, Granada Hills head coach.

“But one thing that stood out is how a number of our students had personal connections to the topic, through family and other ties. These extra levels of understanding gave this team a different set of reserves that they were able to draw upon and use to encourage each other,” Lee said.

The academic decathlon is a 10-event competition that revolves around a central topic in seven subject areas: science, literature, art, music, social science, economics and mathematics. This year’s topic was “The 1960s: A Transformational Decade.” The decathletes compete in multiple-choice exams on each topic as well as through essays and speeches.

GHC won both a Los Angeles-area competition for charter schools and the California state championship to qualify for the national competition.