Marking a first in the 47-year history of the Orange County Academic Decathlon, five O.C. schools have been selected to advance to the state decathlon in Sacramento.
Cheers rang out in a packed Orange Coast College auditorium on the night of Feb. 17 as perennial powerhouse Westminster High was named the overall team winner with 50,981.8 points. Along with a special plaque, individual medals and local bragging rights, the school will receive a $4,000 travel stipend from the Orange County Academic Decathlon Association, which joined OCDE in announcing this year’s winners.
Westminster has burnished its reputation as an OCAD dynasty in recent years, taking first place in 2010, 2011, 2013 and now 2015. But as we said, it won’t be the only O.C. school advancing to the next round.
Woodbridge High in the Irvine Unified School District, Valencia High in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, Trabuco Hills High in the Saddleback Valley Unified School District and La Quinta High in the Garden Grove Unified School District also punched their tickets to the California Academic Decathlon in March after posting some of the highest team scores in the state.
Here’s a list of all of this year’s winning Orange County teams by division:
1st Place: Westminster High School, Huntington Beach Union High School District
2nd Place: Woodbridge High School, Irvine Unified School District
3rd Place: Valencia High School, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District
4th Place: Trabuco Hills High School, Saddleback Valley Unified School District
5th Place: La Quinta High School, Garden Grove Unified School District
1st Place: Servite High School, Private School, Anaheim
2nd Place: Sonora High School, Fullerton Joint Union High School District
3rd Place: Esperanza High School, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District
4th Place: San Juan Hills High School, Capistrano Union School District
5th Place: Fountain Valley High School, Huntington Beach Union High School District
1st Place: Canyon High School, Orange Unified School District
2nd Place: El Toro High School, Saddleback Valley Unified School District
3rd Place: Pacifica High School, Garden Grove Unified School District
4th Place: Sunny Hills High School, Fullerton Joint High School District
5th Place: San Clemente High School, Capistrano Unified School District
Organized at the county, state and local levels, Academic Decathlons are 10-event scholastic contests with rules that are pretty consistent. Nine-member teams battle for the highest scores on multiple-choice exams, speeches, interviews and essay assignments. Each squad must include 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). Contests culminate with the fast-paced Super Quiz Relay, which is held in front of a live audience. (You can learn more on the OCDE’s Academic Decathlon 101 webpage.)
Kristin Rigby, an OCDE program specialist of academic events, said many students begin preparing for their Academic Decathlon roles in May or June of the previous year. The contests themselves may be intense, but the annual awards ceremony is all about celebration and camaraderie.
“There was definitely a buzz in the room,” Rigby said. “Especially when the kids get together and start winning medals, it’s joy and relief that all that hard work paid off. You can just see it in the kids’ faces.”