Monday, February 20, 2012

FRANKLIN DECATHLON TEAM SUCCEEDS WITH TEAMWORK, DEDICATION: The 2012 California Academic Decathlon kicks off March 16 in Sacramento.

By Andrea C. Quezada, Highland Park/Mt. Washington Patch |

Franklin High School's 2011-12 Academic Decathlon Team.Credit AndreaC.Quezada</AHREF=">

Sam Kullens has served as the academic decathlon coach for the past five years.

Wendy Renteria, left, and Kenia Alfaro are returning members from last year's decathlon team.


20 Feb 2012 6:00 am  ::  After months of diligent study, nine students from Highland Park are about to put their knowledge to the test in one of California's most prestigious academic competitions.

Franklin High School’s academic decathlon team amassed 47,812.3 out of 60,000 possible points in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Academic Decathlon competition, good for a fourth place overall finish and will compete in the California Academic Decathlon next month.

“The decathlon is challenging itself, but the thing that is important to remember is that it’s not just about you, it’s about your teammates as well,” senior Wendy Renteria said. “You have to try your best, not for yourself and your own individual medals because it’s for the team, we’re all working for it together.”

The team also snagged a second place finish behind LAUSD decathlon champion Granada Hills Charter School at the Super Quiz relay on Feb. 5.

FHS—in addition to 10 other LAUSD schools—earned wildcard invitations to the state event as a result of their high team scores. According to a press release on LAUSD’s website, Academic Decathlon Coordinator Cliff Kerr said Franklin is one of four schools in the district to have earned the highest regional scores in the United States.

California's Academic Decathlon extends only one automatic entry to the top school from each county.

The Panthers grabbed a sixth place finish in the California competition last year.

“Believe it or not, Los Angeles Unified School District has the very best academic decathlon competition in the entire country. The top four teams that competed in it, were literally the top four teams in the country,” FHS academic decathlon coach Sam Kullens said.

“When we came in fourth place overall, we not only came in fourth place in the city, but the state and the entire country,” the fifth-year coach added.

Since 1987, LAUSD has captured 17 state contests and 12 national titles, according to the press release. The 12 national titles the district boasts are more than any other district in the nation.

Every year the contest has a curriculum theme and this year the theme is Imperialism. Students on the FHS roster studied a broad spectrum of subjects revolving around the theme, including art, music, literature, history, mathematics, science and economics.

Academic decathlon students were given 10 multiple choice tests, each containing approximately 50 questions, in addition to essay and speech portions of the contest.

Franklin team captain Kenia Alfaro said the squad spent a great deal of time preparing for the Super Quiz relay, making sure to get all the facts down. The 18-year-old senior said now all the team has to do is some fine tuning as the state competition draws near.

“It was very hard work, but it was fun. During winter vacation, we got together at other peoples’ houses and on the weekends we go to the library or park and just work wherever we can,” Alfaro said.

Kullens said the accolades the team has received are great, however, there’s no point in participating if the students aren’t having a good time.

“We went to the Hollywood Bowl to listen to the music we had to study. It’s not just about doing well in the competition; it’s about being a more well-rounded individual in general. Knowledge gives them strength for the future,” Kullens said.

Renteria said, “We’ve all tried really hard and hopefully that shows. We all owe our success to each other and how close we are to each other, and just how supportive the whole community has been and the help of our coach.”

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