Taft Repeats in Academic Decathlon

Times Staff Writer

For the second year in a row, Taft High School has won the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Academic Decathlon and will lead eight other teams from the district to the state contest next month.

The nine-member Taft team tallied 51,516.2 points out of a possible 60,000, which district spokesman Cliff Ker said Saturday may be the highest score this year in a regional competition in the nation.

“It was quite impressive,” Ker said.

The results of the district competition were announced Friday night at a banquet at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where the victory went to Taft students Zachary Ellington, Michael Farrell, Farhan Khan, David Lopez, David Novgorodsky, Yuliya Rebrova, Atish Sawant, Dean Schaffer and Monica Schettler.


Also for a second consecutive year, Schaffer, 17, was the top scoring student, with 9,121.4 points.

“I was pretty excited to have repeated what I did last year. It took a lot of hard work and long hours,” said Schaffer, a senior who hopes to study journalism and music at Stanford University.

Schaffer and his classmates were back in the classroom Saturday afternoon.

They were working with coach Arthur Berchin to prepare for the state competition.

“We’re very pleased with our score but we know there is more work to do,” Berchin said. “We have to really improve and get ready for the state competition.”

The district contest drew 540 students from 69 schools who took 10 quizzes -- speech, interview, essay, art, economics, language, literature, mathematics, music, social science -- and participated in the game-show-like Super Quiz.

The topic for this year’s competition was “The European Renaissance: Renewal and Reform.”

The eight other top scoring high school teams that will join Taft at the 2006 California Academic Decathlon are El Camino Real, Granada Hills Charter, Los Angeles, Marshall, Garfield, North Hollywood, Reseda and Palisades.

Their high scores earned the schools all eight wildcard invitations available statewide for the state competition.

The state contest, scheduled for March 17-19 in Los Angeles, will include a rematch between Taft and rival El Camino.

Last year, El Camino upset Taft in the state competition and went on to win the U.S. Academic Decathlon.

The winner of this year’s state contest will compete for the national title April 26-29 in San Antonio.