Saturday, April 24, 2010


By Kevin Modesti, Staff Writer | LA Daily News

Updated: 04/24/2010 11:27:50 AM PDT

El Camino Real High School has won the U.S. Academic Decathlon for the sixth time, making the Woodland Hills school the all-time leader in national championships in the annual battle of the brains.

Awards were announced today in Omaha, Neb., following three days of competition.

The nine-student team from El Camino came out on top in combined scores in multiple-choice quizzes on a variety of topics pertaining to the French Revolution, this year's competition theme.

El Camino junior Jessica Lin was her team's highest point-scorer, while El Camino senior Daniel de Haas was the competition's highest scorer from the “varsity” division. Teams are required to have three students from each of three grade-average categories — “honors” (3.75-4.0 GPA), “scholastic” (3.0-3.74 and varsity (up to 2.99).

“I'm very happy,” Lin said on the phone from the site of Saturday's awards luncheon in Omaha. “It's, like, really cool. This is the whole nation. It's the biggest thing I've ever been involved in.”

Lin said the El Camino team held hands in a circle and shouted for joy when Mountain View High of Mesa, Ariz., was named the second-place finisher and the Woodland Hills school's latest victory became all but certain.

Lin, 17, is a former El Camino varsity swimmer who quit the sport to devote more time to studying for the academic decathlon.

She said she was surprised to have done so well personally. When El Camino won its eighth state championship in March in Sacramento, Lin said, her scores weren't high enough to be among the two individuals in each category that count toward a team's final score.

Lin attributed her improvement to taking more detailed notes as she read study material.

“Write things down, and they'll stay in your head,” she said.

Schools from Arizona, Illinois and Texas placed second, third and fourth.

This was the eighth championship in a row by a school from California, which also had victories by Taft High of Woodland Hills and Moorpark High of Ventura County in the streak. It was the record 17th championship by a school from California, and marked the 11th title by a Los Angeles Unified School District campus. El Camino last won the national title in 2007. Moorpark won the past two years.

El Camino's sixth championship -- in a run that started in 1998 -- broke a tie with J.J. Pearce High of Texas, which has won five times in the event that began in 1982.

El Camino won its eighth California state title in March.

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