Edison High reclaims Fresno County's Academic Decathlon crown

The Fresno BeeFebruary 1, 2014 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Granite Hills High won Tulare County's competition, based on faulty information provided by the Tulare County Office of Education.

Edison High School topped rival University High School on Saturday for the first time in two years to win its 15th Fresno County Academic Decathlon title.

The two Fresno schools have dominated the competition for years, but University High School, the Small School National Champion for the past seven years, had claimed the county championship in recent years. But longtime powerhouse Edison High posted a final score of 50,436.7 to defeat University High, which posted a score of 48,007.2.

Edison coach Gary Mrkaich said it feels good to reclaim the county title. The rivalry was in danger of becoming one-sided if University High had won again, he said.

"This was a big win for us," Mrkaich said. "To win, you have to put everything on the table. The only way you win is if the last person on the team gives everything they have."

A mentally exhausted coach and team will have a few days off before they start preparation for the California Academic Decathlon State Finals in Sacramento. Mrkaich said Sunday will be the team's first day off since Dec. 14.

Academic Decathlons were also held Saturday in other Valley counties. Yosemite High School took the top prize in Madera County for the 21st consecutive year, Lemoore Middle College High School was the winner in Kings County and Harmony Magnet Academy (Team A) of Strathmore took top honors in Tulare County for the third straight year.

The winning schools will compete March 21-23 in the state finals.

Twenty at-large schools are picked to compete in the finals, and University High is expected to be chosen because of its high score. Mrkaich said he hopes Bullard High School, which came in third and posted a score of 40,424.5, also will get a bid.

In Madera County, the Super Quiz, along with each objective test, was conducted using hand-held devices. Madera County was one of five counties that piloted the new technology, which will be used in the state final.

Outside Fresno's Central East gym before the Super Quiz, the decathlon's final event on Saturday, there was a carnival-like atmosphere as 24 teams waited for the competition to start.

Pershing Continuation High School of Fresno, which had planned to participate in its first-ever decathlon, had to withdraw when five of the six team members didn't show up Saturday, coach John Barber said.

Groups of students and coaches stood together painting faces in school colors, taking pictures, holding up signs and adjusting some of the period costumes worn in recognition of this year's topic, World War I.

Standing next to his team minutes before entering the gym, Sanger High School assistant coach Jose Lopez said the Super Quiz gives academic achievers some public acclaim.

"It's their moment," Lopez said. "It's their glory. I am happy they are here and I am happy they are trying."

On the eve of the Sochi Winter Olympics, there were definite parallels to the Academic Decathlon. The atmosphere in the nearly full gym quickly turned serious when Central Unified School District Superintendent Mike Berg said, "Let the games begin."

Much like a relay race, three different teams from each school took turns answering 12 questions and exchanged high fives when a new group stepped in for the next round.

Firebaugh High School teacher Jim McCall, appropriately wearing a USA Olympic team jacket, cheered his students on from the stands.

"They love this," McCall said of the decathletes' reaction to the loud crowd. "It takes a special group of people to put themselves on the line in an academic competition. To have people here cheering shows how special these kids are."

The official numbers were announced later in the evening during an awards ceremony. The Deans Medalists winners for highest scoring students were: Thomas Moore, Edison High, first place; teammate Ben Drake, second; and Angel Elizondo, University High, third.

Although University High came in second in the overall competition, it may be allowed to defend its national championship, officials said.

Angel Elizondo, University High's team captain, said he has no doubts the team will remain a power for years to come.

"It's like a family," he said. "It's comforting, it almost feels like passing on the baton."



Division winners

Division I

Edison High (50,436.7 points)

Coach: Gary Mrkaich

Team members: Ben Drake, Ernesto Batalla, Moira Tan, Nathaniel Drake, Peter Yang, Rumi Sherriff, Sunday Tejada and Thomas Moore.

Division II

Fowler High (37,324.8 points)

Division III

Sunnyside High (31,015.6 points)

Division IV

Buchanan High (29,371.4 points)

Overall teams

1. Edison High School (50,436.7 points)

2. University High (48,007.2 points)

3. Bullard High (40,424.5 points)

4. Central High (38,776.7 points)

5. Fowler High (37,324.8 points)

6. Sanger High (34,390.3 points)

7. Roosevelt High (33,261.6 points)

8. Selma High (32,575.9 points)

9. Sunnyside High (31,015.6 points)

10. Clovis East High (30,513.5 points)

Most Improved Team

Reedley High School

Super Quiz results

1. University High (4,425 points)

2. Edison High (4,050 points)

3. Central High (3,300 points)

4. (tie) Bullard High (3,000 points)

4. (tie) Roosevelt High (3,000 points)

5. (tie) Firebaugh High (2,625 points)

5. (tie) Selma High (2,625 points)

Dean's Medalists

(highest-scoring students)

1. Thomas Moore, Edison High (8,648.6 points)

2. Ben Drake, Edison High (8,347.1 points)

3. Angel Elizondo, University High (8,208.7 points)


Overall teams

1. Lemoore Middle College High (37,003 points)

2. Corcoran High (35,334 points)

3. Lemoore High (35,273 points)

4. Hanford High (30,502 points)

5. Sierra Pacific High (29,651 points)

6. Hanford West High (24,858 points)

7. Avenal High (18,810 points)

Top Decathlete

Adrian Lomeli, Corcoran High

Top Varsity Student

John Bumpass, Lemoore High

Top Scholastic Student

Claudia Connors, Lemoore Middle College High

Top Honors Students

Adrian Lomeli, Corcoran High

Top Students

Ayendili Alcantar, Avenal High; Adrian Lomeli, Corcoran High; Jenna Van Fossen, Hanford High; Lindsy Sullivan, Hanford West High; Hannah Denney, Lemoore High; Claudia Connors, Lemoore Middle College High; Miguel Lepiz, Sierra Pacific High


Overall teams

Yosemite High (35,051.9 points)

Coach: Steve Browning

Team members: Rachel Arroyo, Christen Cogdell, Tasha Dragoo, Angela Du, Kenny Jeffris, Jonas Park, Azani Pusina, Gregory Royse, Adam Scott

2. Chawanakee Academy High

3. Chowchilla High School High

Super Quiz winner

Yosemite High

Overall individual winner

Adam Scott, Yosemite High (6,344.7 points)

Top scoring seniors from each school

Chawanakee Academy: Laurel Samuelson

Chowchilla High: Kyle Hansen

Liberty High: Matteo Francescone

Madera High: Manal Iqbal

Madera South High: Mayra Cano

Yosemite High: Adam Scott


Overall teams

Harmony Magnet Academy (Team A) (34,533 points)

Top Large School Team

Granite Hills High

Top Small School Team

Harmony Magnet Academy (Team A)

Harmony Magnet Academy (Team A), Strathmore, CA

Coach: John DeNicola

Team Members: David Dunn, Scott Noble, Eva Salas, Katherine Scott, Kisha Thayapran, Lorena Vargas

Top Students -- Honors Category

Kisha Thayapran, Harmony Magnet Academy

Daniel Seyedebrahimi, El Diamante High

Kisha Thayapran, Harmony Magnet Academy

Top Students -- Scholastic Category

Erica Huerta, Granite Hills High

Scott Noble, Harmony Magnet Academy

Melanie Rubalcaba, Harmony Magnet Academy

Top Students -- Varsity Category

Katherine Scott, Harmony Magnet Academy

Adrian Gonzales, Granite Hills High

Marianna Williams, Dinuba High

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6279 or jrayburn@fresnobee.com.

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