It’s Academic--West High Wins Decathlon Again


For the fifth year running, West High School in Torrance has won the Los Angeles County Academic Decathlon.

The nine-member team, composed of three A students, three B students and three C students, placed first, beating out Diamond Bar High School, which came in second, and Peninsula High School, which placed third.

All high schools in Los Angeles County are eligible to compete in the decathlon, except for ones in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which holds its own competition. In March, West will compete against Marshall High School, the winner of the Los Angeles Unified decathlon, and about 45 other schools, in the state academic decathlon.


In state competition, West High traditionally has placed second in even-numbered years and third in odd-numbered ones.

But its victories at the county level have been so numerous that the question of whether West will win has changed. The question now is, how does West keep winning?

“I’ll blame it on the coach,” said decathlete Tim Rider, complimenting biology teacher George Floratos, who guides the team. “Also, our school has momentum,” said Rider, a senior who also was on last year’s team. “Now that we’ve won, no one wants to be the team to lose.”

Students take a qualifying test to be on Floratos’ team, and the top three students in each grade category are chosen.

“Once they’ve been chosen, from that point on, they act as a team,” Floratos said. “It’s just like any athletic team; you have to develop camaraderie and you have quality time with them. You become their father, their counselor. They have a problem, they come to you. And once in a while you’ve got to kick them in the rear.”

Then from March to November, students study about two hours a day at home and meet twice weekly at Floratos’ home, endeavoring to become well versed in 10 areas of study.



Decathletes are tested on their knowledge of science, history, language and literature, essay writing, impromptu and prepared speech-giving, the interview process, music, art, economics and mathematics through calculus. In addition to the primary subjects, a main theme is chosen every year. This year’s subject was biotechnology.

“They’re doing 10 subjects for me and six or seven for school, so they learn to read carefully and well,” Floratos said.

Floratos said the reason his teams keep winning is simple. Regardless of their grades, everyone chosen for the team has the capacity to be an A student. The students are not incomprehensibly brilliant, but he tries to motivate them to work very hard.

“He is good at motivating people,” said Rider, adding that other academic endeavors often do not interest him. “When it comes to school, I’m extremely lazy. I’m a C student. A lot of times I don’t find what we’re doing in school very interesting. It’s not challenging enough.

“But I wish that all high school students could experience academic decathlon and what it represents,” Rider said. “It represents joy--it’s the joy of learning.”