Irvine’s Woodbridge High wins fifth OC Academic Decathlon in six years

Woodbridge High's Academic Decathlon team

For the fifth time in six years, Woodbridge High School in Irvine has won the Orange County Academic Decathlon.

The news broke late Wednesday afternoon during an online awards ceremony that announced dozens of individual and team honors tied to the 10-event scholastic contest. With its victory, Woodbridge is headed back to the California Academic Decathlon in March.

“According to the students, the competition tests were very difficult this year, and their scores reflect it,” Woodbridge coach Mike Nakaue told the OCDE Newsroom. “But they know if you establish good individual and team study habits, it can result in a winning outcome. This team has proven it. This team also discovered that once you are an academic decathlon decathlete, you are forever bound together with decathletes of the past.”

Nakaue said his students’ goal for the California Academic Decathlon will be “to enjoy learning, do the best they can to represent the county, and try to finish in the top 10 out of the 87 invited schools.”

And the champs will have some company from Orange County. For the second straight year, 10 OC high schools have been invited to compete at the state level based on their overall team scores.

OCAD events held online

Nearly 400 students from 32 schools participated in this year’s Orange County Academic Decathlon over three consecutive Saturdays starting on Jan. 22. All of the events took place online, including the culminating Super Quiz Relay, which typically has the feel of a live sporting event.

Woodbridge, winner of the 2006 Orange County Academic Decathlon and four straight from 2017 to 2020, took the top spot overall by amassing 44,624.3 total points. Second place honors went to Valencia High School in the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District with 35,785.4 points, and Garden Grove High School placed third with 35,371.5 points.

Rounding out the top 10 were Westminster, University, Trabuco Hills, Esperanza and Beckman high schools, along with Fairmont Preparatory Academy and Cypress High School.

Woodbridge’s Melissa Tsaowimonsiri ended the county competition as the highest scoring student this year, and two decathletes achieved perfect scores in individual events — John Rydell of San Juan Hills High for math and Melody Lin of Tesoro High for speech.

Here’s a breakdown of the top Orange County teams and their respective scores. (Schools advancing to the state competition are in bold.)


  • Woodbridge High, Irvine Unified School District, 44,624.3 (first place)
  • Valencia High, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, 35,785.4 (second place)
  • Garden Grove High, Garden Grove Unified District, 35,371.5 (third place)
  • Westminster High, Huntington Beach Union High School District, 34,730.9 (fourth place)
  • University High, Irvine Unified School District, 34,630.7 (fifth place)
  • Trabuco Hills High, Saddleback Valley Unified School District, 33,262.5
  • Esperanza High, Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, 31,611.5


  • Beckman High, Tustin Unified School District, 31,403.9 (first place)
  • Fairmont Prep High, a private high school in Anaheim, 30,756.3 (second place)
  • Tesoro High, Capistrano Unified School District, 29,901.7 (third place)
  • San Juan Hills High, Capistrano Unified School District, 29,447.7 (fourth place)
  • Brea Olinda High, Brea Olinda Unified School District, 28,805.5 (fifth place)
  • Segerstrom High, Santa Ana Unified School District, 24,912.3
  • Pacifica High, Garden Grove Unified School District, 16,441.0


  • Cypress High, Anaheim Union High School District, 30,366.8 (first place)
  • John F. Kennedy High, Anaheim Union High School District, 28,143.5 (second place)
  • Portola High, Irvine Unified School District, 26,862.1 (third place)
  • Magnolia High, Anaheim Union High School District, 26,390.8 (fourth place)
  • Marina High, Huntington Beach Union High School District, 25,961.6 (fifth place)
  • Legacy Magnet Academy, Tustin Unified School District, 25,729.1
  • Magnolia Science Academy, a charter school in Santa Ana, 22,835.9
  • Santiago High, Garden Grove Unified School District, 22,700.0

A decathlon of studies

The concept of an Academic Decathlon came from former Orange County Superintendent Dr. Robert Peterson, who envisioned “a decathlon of studies” while he was being held as a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany. The very first decathlon took place at Bolsa Grande High School in Garden Grove in 1968.

Today, competitions are held at the county, state and national levels, with nine-member teams vying for the highest scores on multiple-choice exams, speeches, interviews and essay assignments. This year’s theme is “Water: A Most Essential Resource.”

The rules dictate that each team must have three “Honor” students (those with GPAs of 3.80 and above), along with three “Scholastic” students (GPAs of 3.20 to 3.79) and a trio of “Varsity” students (GPAs of 3.199 and below). Contests culminate with the action-packed Super Quiz Relay, which traditionally takes place in front of a live audience, but COVID-19 precautions have altered the popular event in recent years.

Hosted by OCDE, the 54th annual Orange County Academic Decathlon was sponsored by Del Taco, NuVision Federal Credit Union, Townsend Public Affairs, Aeries Software and Frontline Education.

The California Academic Decathlon is scheduled to take place virtually March 1-12. Top performers from that contest will advance to the national championships, which will be held April 21-23.