Academic Decathlon Gold

Photo credit: Robert Durell for the L.A. Times, from L.A. Now.

El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills, California, won the gold medal in the United States Academic Decathlon national championship held in Omaha, Nebraska last month.  With this victory they set a new record for the most championships for a school: six. The competitions have been held since 1982. California dominates this sport, having produced the last eight winners and seventeen overall.

Woodland Hills is a district of Los Angeles, located in the San Fernando Valley. The high school is about a mile north of U.S. 101, A.K.A. El Camino Real. Under Spanish rule this area was under the sway of Mission San Fernando Rey de España, founded in 1797 by Father Fermín Lasuén during a particularly prolific period when he founded four missions in four months to fill in gaps along El Camino Real.

The  U.S. Academic Decathlon or USAD is a grueling competition where teams of nine high school students are tested in ten categories:

  • Art
  • Economics
  • Essay
  • Interview
  • Language and Literature
  • Mathematics
  • Music
  • Science
  • Social Science
  • Speech

The theme for this season was “The French Revolution.” A surprising twist is that the members of the team must include three with an “A” grade point average (“Honor” students), three with a “B” GPA (“Scholastic” students), and three with a “C” average or lower (“Varsity” students). The idea is to encourage teamwork. This rule is a pragmatic recognition that grades don’t tell the whole story when it comes to a student’s ability, and the effect is to foster a diverse team dynamic that makes the experience more enriching for everyone. Contestants have been known to purposely wreck their grades to compete as ringers and that’s unethical and short-sighted.

America Ferrera Peter BradyEl Camino Real High (“ECR”) is a powerhouse but this is the first championship for these particular students and coaches. There’s something endemic in their program which produces winners. They prepare all year, studying 7 days a week for up to 6 hours a day. The school does well in other academic and cultural competitions too, but they’re not just about the brainiacs. Their notable alumni include America Ferrera and Christopher Knight. Yeah, Peter Brady.

Congratulations to the El Camino Real Conquistadores (unfortunate choice of mascot) for this unprecedented success. It’s really inspiring to see young people work so hard and achieve that level of excellence.

One Response to “Academic Decathlon Gold”

  1. Pierre says:

    ECR has always been a championship school in academics and the arts. Not only have Amerika Ferrera and Christopher Knight attended drama at ECR and are notable , but other graduates incude, Mike Darnell, uber-producer at Fox, Brad Garrett-Everybody Loves Raymond, Carlos Lacamara-The Brothers Garcia, just to name a few.

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