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El Camino Real Charter High School wins L.A. Academic Decathlon

El Camino Real Charter High School wins L.A. Academic Decathlon
El Camino Real Charter High School students celebrate with principal David Hussey, left, after winning the 2018 L.A. Unified School District Academic Decathlon at Belmont High School on Sunday. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

In something of an upset, El Camino Real Charter High School has won the 2018 Academic Decathlon for the Los Angeles Unified School District, officials announced Sunday.

Though El Camino, located in Woodland Hills, was clearly an academic powerhouse in this competition, the win ran counter to recent form because Granada Hills Charter High has triumphed repeatedly. Granada Hills won the L.A. crown on its way to the 2017 national championship — its third straight.

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Granada Hills remains in the running for the state and national prizes because it finished second; L.A. Unified will send its top 15 teams to Sacramento to compete for state honors in March.

"It's still anybody's game," said El Camino senior Maya Teitz, just in case any of her teammates were thinking about letting down their guard.

Maya, 17, earned the highest individual score in the competition. She joined the team last year, in part because the competition's subject was World War II.

"My grandfather had lost his brother in a camp," she said, referring to the extermination prisons of the Holocaust. "And I wanted to honor him and his memory and learn more about his heritage."

This year's theme was Africa, and Maya eagerly plunged in again.

"I stayed because this is the most beautiful experience," Maya said. "You get a whole new set of friends just like that. They are a network of people you can trust. How could I leave?"

The winners were announced Sunday during a ceremony at Belmont High School west of downtown. The tournament took place over two consecutive weekends beginning Jan. 27.

Nine-student teams from each participating school competed in speech, interview and essays contests, while also demonstrating their knowledge in the arts, economics, language and literature, mathematics, music and social science. The only event open to the public is a question-and-answer session called the Super Quiz, which Granada Hills won. The scores of all sessions are tallied together to name an overall winner.

The head coach for El Camino is Stephanie Franklin. Other key coaches include John Dalsass in math and Sharon Markenson in speech. The remaining members of the team include Inesh Ahuja, Ashtar Fayoumi, Matthew Fitzmorris, Briana Lincoln, Rachel Markenson, Nolan Origer, Avery Tamura and Trevor Winnard.

Other local school districts participate in a separate competition managed by the Los Angeles County Office of Education. This year's county winner, announced last week, is South Pasadena High School. It, too, will continue to the state level.

Schools from L.A. Unified have won 18 national titles since 1987.

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