Academic Decathlon team wins 8th national title

Photo courtesy of GHC Instagram

By Emily Garcia

On May 1, the Granada Hills Charter (GHC) Academic Decathlon team took their eighth victory in the U.S. Academic Decathlon Competition. Highland Park High School from Texas took second place, and Whitney M. Young Magnet High School from Illinois took third.

The overall curricular theme for the 2020-2021 competition was “The Cold War.” The subject areas the team competed in included science, literature, art, music, social science, economics and mathematics. The competition challenged each team with multiple choice exams, speeches, essays and interviews, though these were all completed online this year as a safety precaution due to the Covid pandemic.

As this was the national competition, qualifying teams from different schools across the country participated. Students are categorized based on GPA as either Honors (A), Scholastic (B), or Varsity (C or below). GHC ranked with the two highest scores in each category: seniors Jasdeep Sidhu (1st overall honors) and Dwaipayan Chanda (2nd overall honors); seniors Zorex Villadelgado Jr. (1st overall scholastic) and Hirusha Liyanage (2nd overall scholastic); lastly senior Joshua Choi (1st overall varsity) and junior Justin Kim (2nd overall varsity). Choi and Kim were also awarded the Asa Edwin Reaves, Esq. Social Science Prize, which is given to the highest scoring U.S. varsity competitors from Division I, II, or III in the area of social science.

These individual winners join senior Eunice Choi, sophomore Rachel Heo (alternate), senior Chloe Hyun, junior Aroa Kim (alternate), sophomore Anthony Mercado (alternate) as members of the winning team. 

The team has three staff coaches who work with the students all year to prepare for this competition: Math teacher Alina Lee,  counselor Linda Kang, and alumnus Amy Contreras. 

“Like last year, this competition was a big shift for everyone involved,” Lee said. “It was important to focus on maintaining our momentum without our normal face-to-face interactions. Our program is built on teamwork and accountability so keeping the sense of connection amongst our students was a top priority. I am really impressed how well everyone responded, and I’m very excited for our team.”

Especially given the online nature of practice and competitions, the school is very proud of the team’s achievements. 

“I know everyone on the team worked very hard under extremely trying conditions to prepare for the competitions, so we all are excited for their success. In a normal year, the unexpected challenges of Academic Decathlon go beyond learning about the topics and honing skills for the 10 different events. There are challenges of making time for all the preparations, of staying focused and determined and facing odds that can feel daunting. This year’s team again demonstrated the perseverance needed to compete at such a high level, and they deserve this victory,” Executive Director Brian Bauer said in the school’s statement. 

Now that the seniors are graduating, the underclassmen are expected to take the lead and help the team deliver a strong showing next year as well. The theme for 2021-2022 will be “Water: A Most Essential Resource.”