St. Mel’s Team Wins Junior High Decathlon

Although Monday morning rain moved a celebration of a statewide academic victory indoors at St. Mel Catholic School, it didn’t dampen the students’ enthusiasm.

A team of seventh- and eighth-graders representing the Archdiocese of Los Angeles took first place overall and won several individual trophies at the 1998 Catholic Junior High School Academic Decathlon state finals Saturday in Sacramento.

The school competed for the second time since the event began in 1990, and several St. Mel students achieved the highest scores in the history of the meet.

“We’re proud of their accomplishments,” said Sister Monica Quigley, St. Mel principal.


“I’m grateful to them for all the time and hard work that they put into preparing for the event.”

Winners in the individual categories were Elise Wetzel in religion, Alexander Schwab in math, Vickie Camtore in literature, Nick Heller in fine arts and John Dzundza in speech.

Others winning trophies were Justin Hwang, second place in science; Claire Ianiro, fifth in English; and Stephen Amritraj, fifth in social studies.

The team, under the guidance of coordinator Patty Hager, competed against eight Catholic schools statewide in individual, logic and Super Quiz events.

The 10 team members and six alternates said they were nervous during the competition, but that they benefited from the many hours they and their teachers had devoted to studying after school and during lunch.

Students were chosen to compete in individual events based on their talents and interest, and that strategy paid off well in most cases.

Nick, 14, received special recognition for achieving the highest score ever in the competition.

The eighth-grader said he has studied piano and researched composers for about five years, so demonstrating his knowledge of Mozart was a natural.

“Last year, I was the only seventh-grader on the team, and I took second place,” he said.

“I told myself that I wanted to take first before I leave St. Mel’s.”