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El Camino Real Charter High wins Academic Decathlon's Super Quiz

Members of the North Hollywood Academic Decathlon team in 2008.
Members of the North Hollywood Academic Decathlon team in 2008.
Steve Yeater/AP

El Camino Real Charter High School won the "Super Quiz" event at Los Angeles Unified's Academic Decathlon on Saturday.  Marshall High School came in second and reigning national champion, Granada Hills Charter High School, finished third.

The Decathlon is part of a national competition that tests students in subjects such as art, literature, mathematics, economics and science. This year's area of focus was World War I. The "Super Quiz" event for Los Angeles Unified, held Saturday at the Roybal Learning Center in downtown L.A., comprises about 5 percent of a team's total score. 

The overall winner will be announced at Hollywood High School on February 7. That team will represent the L.A. Unified School District in the state finals in March, hoping to move on to the nationals. The expectations will be high: Los Angeles Unified teams have won 14 national championships since 1987, including a first and second place finish last year.

"This is serious competition," said Cliff Ker, coordinator of academic events for the District's after school program, Beyond the Bell, who has overseen Los Angeles Unified's Decathlon for 14 years.

Manual Arts High School was participating for only the second time, looking to improve on last year's last place finish. Their coach, Thomas Roddy, says his students have been sneaking in study time during the school day and meeting after school to practice. Some teams at other schools dedicate entire class periods to Academic Decathlon prep. All of this can make it tough for new teams to compete with top contenders.

"You have schools like Granada Hills which have just a very, very robust population that has a lot of educational advantages to ours," Roddy said.

Alejandra Morales, 16, was part of Manual Arts team last year and came back to compete again Saturday.

"It is really hard because it's really intimidating," she said, adding that she was thrilled to return and loves the team. Morales said being part of the Academic Decathlon has helped her boost her self-esteem and self-confidence. "We learn how to work with what we have."