Granada Hills Charter High School wins national Academic Decathlon for third year in a row


Granada Hills Charter High School has won the national Academic Decathlon for the third year in a row, officials announced Saturday.

The 2017 win marks the sixth time in the last seven years the San Fernando Valley campus has claimed the national title. This year’s competition ran Thursday through Saturday in Madison, Wis.

The team of nine students scored 54,507 points out of a possible 60,000 in the rigorous three-day competition, beating out dozens of other national teams. For the second year in a row, Highland Park High School in Texas placed second.


The coaches of the Granada Hills team attributed their victory to their hard work and dedication, noting the months of commitment needed to develop the skills it takes to win at all three levels of competition, including city, state and national championships.

“Because they have formed a true team bond … they refuse to let each other down,” Rachael Phipps, one of the team’s coaches and a Granada Hills speech and debate teacher, said in a statement after Saturday’s announcement.

Students were tested in seven subject areas: science, literature, art, music, social science, economics and mathematics. The competition included multiple-choice exams in each subject, as well as essays and speeches. It ended with a fast-paced Super Quiz.

This year’s topic was World War II.

Granada Hills team members are Mark Aguila, Jordan Barretto, Sabrina Carlos, Sebastian Gonzalez, Christopher Lo, Kevin Ly, Aisha Mahmud, Melissa Santos and Peter Shin. Alternates included Justin Chiang, Dilawar Khan and Sara Jay Thraen.

In addition to Phipps, the coaches included Harsimar Dhanoa, a former Granada Hills student and decathlon winner, and Jonathan Sturtevant, who said four of the nine members of this year’s team had returned from last year.

“They loved each other so much they became like a family,” he said of the current group. He said the team was traveling to Chicago late Saturday night so they could enjoy the day there Sunday before flying home.


Brian Bauer, executive director of the school who has been at Granada Hills for 17 years, said he was thrilled at the team’s victory and credited their success to “powerful teaching” as well as the “perseverance and grit” of the students. Over the years, he said, the school has developed “a winning culture.”

“We have great pride,” he said. “Wherever I go, I hear students talking about the Academic Decathlon champs. They’re almost like rock stars on our campus. It’s great to celebrate academic excellence on campus.”

School officials are planning an outdoor rally on the Granada Hills campus on Monday at 8 a.m. that will include cheerleaders, bagpipers, dancers and special guests.


3:42 p.m.: This story has been updated with comments from school officials.

This story was originally posted at 1:55 p.m.