Inside the Westminster High gymnasium, they waved pom poms, hoisted team flags, chanted cheers and screamed every time their team scored points.
That was the scene Saturday during the Super Quiz portion of the 51st Orange County Academic Decathlon, one of the more thrilling academic competitions each year for local high school students.
Hundreds of students from 42 local high schools deciphered dozens of tough questions as part of the Super Quiz. Team members, known as “decathletes,” worked together as they fielded fast-paced questions, cheering when they answered correctly, or groaning when they missed one.
The Decathlon is a scholastic contest featuring 10 set events. Nine-member teams compete for the highest scores on multiple-choice exams, speeches, interviews and essay assignments.
This year’s theme was “The 1960s: A Transformational Decade.”
Students fielded question that included: “The 1964 Freedom Summer was led by?” and “Throughout the campaign in Vietnam, the military forced entire villages to relocate into new fenced-in settlements called?”
The answers: student volunteers and strategic hamlets, respectively.
“All these students did a fantastic job today. Their ability to tackle these challenging questions shows they arrived to the competition truly prepared,” said Kristin Rigby, decathlon coordinator for the Orange County Department of Education.
Each team included three “Honor” students (those with GPAs of 3.75 or above), three “Scholastic” students (GPAs of 3.00 to 3.74) and three “Varsity” students (GPAs of 2.99 or below).
The overall winning school will be announced Feb. 12 at a ceremony at Santa Ana High School and move on to the California Academic Decathlon in Sacramento in March.
The Academic Decathlon originated in Orange County, the brainchild of former County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Peterson. But few probably know that the idea came to Peterson while he was a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
Presented by the Orange County Academic Decathlon Association and OCDE, this year’s decathlon is supported by the contributions of community members and sponsors, including NuVision Federal Credit Union, Del Taco LLC, the Orange County Register, Aeries Software, Frontline Education and Achieve3000.