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High School: Competition, Decathlete-Style

Student tells of the tension and triumph of Golden Valley.

Posted: February 19, 2008 6:38 p.m.
Updated: April 15, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Ivonne Arias is a senior at Golden Valley High School and a member of the school's Academic Decathlon team.

Day 1: Jan. 26, Montebello High School

Outside, tiny patches of the bright blue sky peaked through looming gray clouds. Inside, students paced back and forth frantically throughout hallways and, in a seemingly schizophrenic manner, engaged in animated, yet one-sided conversations with the walls.

This can only mean one thing: Last-minute speech practice for competitors at Day 1 of the Los Angeles County Academic Decathlon. Although this scene was perhaps more befitting a brisk winter day at some sort of mental institution,

Academic Decathlon competitions still bring their fair share of crazy to the table.

Many things that may seem a little out of place at your average high school-level competition, such as talking to walls and performing self-written speeches about everything from finding the perfect place to sing to the somewhat nonsensical logic behind common phrases, are completely normal here.

The Academic Decathlon, or "AcDec" for short, is a competition among high schools in which each participating school has a team of nine students competing in three divisions: Honors (4.0-3.75 GPA), Scholastic (3.74-3.0 GPA), and Varsity (2.99 GPA and below).

The competition features 10 events with an overall different theme spread out over two separate days of competition: art, economics, essay, interview, language and literature, mathematics, music, science, speech and social science (Super Quiz). This year's theme was the American Civil War.

During the first day of the Los Angeles County competition, all of the subjective events took place: speech, interview, and essay. For Golden Valley High School's team, this was a day of both anxiety and excitement.

Miranda Sterner, a scholastic on Golden Valley's AcDec team, recalled much nervousness the day before competition.

"I dreamt that my alarm never went off and I missed the competition!" she said.

Another scholastic on Golden Valley's team, Mahalia Knight, also experienced a bit of Day 1 nervousness.

"I specifically chose a seat [in the essay room] so I would be able to see the clock, but the clock was broken and the proctor wouldn't announce how much time was left, except for the last five minutes," she said with exasperation.

Day 2: Feb. 2, USC Galen Center

All other curriculum was tested on Day 2 via 50-question written tests with the exception of the Super Quiz event, which featured a 40-question written test combined with a 10-question oral relay.

For the Super Quiz oral relay, the last portion of the competition, as proctored by KTLA's Lynette Romero. The decathletes were given seven seconds to answer each question. Although the actual competition itself was over, the nerves were far from gone.

Decathletes anxiously awaited to find out their scores at an awards banquet held Thursday at the Quiet Cannon Country Club in Montebello.

For all of their hard work, the top-scoring competitors were rewarded handsomely with trophies, scholarships, and gold, silver, and bronze medals. Golden Valley's team won medals in every subject, with the exception of math, for a grand total of 38-eight medals, which brought the team to an overall sixth-place finish out of 63 teams.

Golden Valley also won a third-place trophy for the Super Quiz event in its division.

* * * * *

Golden Valley Academic Decathlon Winners

• Sixth Place Overall

• Third Place for Division II "Super Quiz"

Top-Scoring Decathletes in Division II:

Andre Cartier - Gold

Mahalia Knight - Gold

Arjun Avila - Bronze


Individual Medals:


Arjun Avila - Gold

Mahalia Knight - Silver

Andre Cartier - Silver

Language and Literature:

Mahalia Knight - Gold

Andre Cartier - Gold

Miranda Sterner - Silver


Mahalia Knight - Silver

Arjun Avila - Silver

Miranda Sterner - Bronze


Arjun Avila - Gold

Andre Cartier - Silver


Joseph Jung - Gold

Mahalia Knight - Silver


Mahalia Knight - Gold

Andrew Tan - Gold

Kristine Tan - Silver

Arjun Avila - Silver

Ivonne Arias - Bronze

Miranda Sterner - Bronze


Mahalia Knight - Silver


Ivonne Arias - Gold

Miranda Sterner - Silver

Kristine Tan - Bronze


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