Teams took their places at center court inside Westminster High School’s gymnasium, surrounded by fans that packed the bleachers, armed with banners, flags and cardboard signs.
Hundreds of students from 42 local high schools deciphered dozens of tough questions as part of the Super Quiz Relay. It’s the final round of the Orange County Academic Decathlon, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
Team members, known as “decathletes,” worked together as they fielded fast-paced questions, cheering when they answered correctly, or groaning when they missed one.
Saturday’s Super Quiz Relay was the final event of this year’s county competition. 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.
“There were some really tough questions, but I think our team did really well,” said Naima Abdalla, a senior on the team from Savanna High in Anheim. “The decathlon was really fun. I also got to make a lot of new friends from working with my teammates for so many weeks.”
Each team 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).
The theme for this year’s decathlon was Africa. Students arrived to the gymnasium Saturday at Westminster High dressed in everything from matching shirts with their school logos and track jackets to African-themed garbs.
Competitors answered questions that included, “Violence between African tribes was largely increased in the mid 1700s because of the importation of?” and “Who became a leading expert in Nok art when it was first unearthed?” The answers: Muskets from England and British archaeologist Bernard Fagg, respectively.
The overall winning school will be announced Friday at a ceremony at Santa Ana High School and move on to the California Academic Decathlon in Sacramento in March. The U.S. Academic Decathlon championships will follow April 19 through April 21 in Frisco, Texas.
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.
“This competition has really evolved since it began 50 years ago,” said Kristin Rigby, a program specialist with the OCDE. “It’s great that it’s going so strong not just in Orange County, but also all across the country.”
Presented by the Orange County Academic Decathlon Association and OCDE, this year’s contest is supported by the contributions of community members and sponsors, including NuVision Federal Credit Union, Del Taco Restaurants Inc., the Orange County Register, Aeries Software, Matific Education and the California Association of Latino Superintendents and Administrators. It also marks the start of academic event season in Orange County.