University High claims Fresno County Academic Decathlon title

Hundreds of students paraded into the gym at the Central High School East campus Saturday afternoon to shouting, applause, pompoms and sign-waving from families and friends in the bleachers. On the eve of one of the biggest sports events in the country, Principal Robert Perez looked around the gym crowded with competing students from 25 high schools and declared, “This is our Super Bowl!”

The 35th annual Fresno County Academic Decathlon has been a year in the making, with students studying hard, said Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Jim Yovino. Saturday’s event was the culmination of hundreds of hours of preparation and was also the only event the public can attend – the Super Quiz.

University High School prevailed. University has won the National Decathlon small schools championship for the past 10 years.

Other county decathlons also wrapped up Saturday. Madera County’s perennial champion, Yosemite High School, claimed the championship for the 22nd time in 23 years. In Tulare County, reigning champion Granite Hills High School of Porterville took home the top prize. And in Kings County, reigning champion Lemoore Middle College High School was the winner.

In the Fresno County competition, the longtime rivalry between Edison High and University continued. University, with 49,654.1 points, outscored Edison by only 854 points. They have been the only two schools to win the county decathlon since 1997. And after a 13-year absence from the competition, Duncan Polytechnical High School took first place in Division 4.

FOX26 anchor Rich Rodriguez hosted the Super Quiz again this year, reading each question aloud with its multiple choice answers in a “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” style. World War II was the theme this year, and students competed in subjects such as art, music, language, literature, math and economics.

In the Super Quiz, A, B and C groups for each team competed in three rounds of questions. Instead of saying the answers aloud, students had 10 seconds to pencil them in on a scantron. The crowd of family, friends and classmates looked on in silence until the 10 seconds were up, roaring and applauding as the results were held aloft by volunteers.

University High student Lillian Torres, a dean’s medalist who was the competition’s highest-scoring student, said she loves the Academic Decathlon because of the bond she shares with her teammates.

“Some of them, I didn’t know before this,” said Torres, who has competed for University for the past three years. The 17-year-old also likes the fact that decathlon teams get the fanfare generally reserved for sports athletes. “Academics are awarded here,” she said. “It’s team-building. We study late nights, and any free time I have in class, I take out my flash cards and read the material.”

Coach Sean Canfield had hoped all the students’ hard work would pay off, because he knew the competition with Edison would be fierce.

Decathletes have to do a lot of studying to prepare for the annual event, Canfield said. “Their reading binder is eight inches thick,” he said. “They also have to read a novel and become familiar with music, and write a speech and an essay.”

Another decathlon event on Jan. 28 was held at Fresno State, where the students presented speeches they had been working on, wrote an essay and took part in interviews.

The decathlon was hosted by Fresno State this year. Students visited the university throughout the semester, studying the theme of World War II. Some earned college credit for extra courses they took. More than $8,000 in scholarships will also be awarded to participating students, said spokeswoman Lisa Birrell.

Decathlon coordinator Jennifer Quinn-Yovino said the students work hard and put in a lot of dedication throughout the year. “Most of the students study after school or on weekends,” she said. “Each is dedicated in their own way. It’s amazing to see their eyes light up when they get a question right.”

University, Yosemite, Granite Hills and Lemoore Middle College high schools will now go on to the state decathlon in Sacramento March 22-25. The state winner will compete at the National Decathlon in Madison, Wisconsin in April.

Perez said each year the decathlon gets “bigger, better and louder.” He said, “I like the enthusiasm; I like the teamwork.”

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPan

Academic Decathlon winners in the Valley


Superintendent’s Sweepstake Award: University High, coach Coach Sean Canfield, team members Dylan Strobel, Emily Starkweather, Emmanuel Valadez-Garcia, Hanna D’Cruz, Jared Smith, Lady Abangan, Lillian Torres, Lucas Garcia and Miranda Lara

Division 1 winner: University High, 49,654.1 points

Division 2 winner: Fowler High, 39,693 points

Division 3 winner: Firebaugh High, 39,855.6 points

Division 4 winner: Duncan Polytechnical, 31,163.9 points

Overall winners: First place, University High, 49,654.1 points; second, Edison High, 48,800.1 points; third, Bullard High, 41,895.2 points; fourth, Firebaugh High, 39,855.6 points; fifth, Fowler High, 39,693 points; sixth, Clovis West High, 39,350.9 points; seventh, Central High, 38,990.4 points; eighth, Sunnyside High, 37,561 points; ninth, Reedley High, 36,896.7 points; 10th place, Selma High, 34,773.5 points

Most Improved Team: Reedley High

Super Quiz: First place, University High, 4,425 points; second, Edison High, 4,125 points; third, Central High, 3,675 points; fourth, Firebaugh High, 3,375 points; fifth, Reedley High, 3,300 points

Dean’s Medalists (highest scoring students): First place, Lillian Torres, University High, 9,039 points; second, Marcus Tan, Edison High, 8,667.3 points; third, Lady Abangan, University High, 8,628.6 points


Championship team: Lemoore Middle College High School, coach Allen Tong

Overall winners: First place, Lemoore Middle College, 41,904.30 points; second, Lemoore High School, 33,034.90 points; third, Hanford High School, 27,821.70 points; fourth, Corcoran High School, 22,534.10 points; fifth, Avenal High School, 20,266.40 points; sixth, Hanford West High, 18,694.80 points; seventh, Sierra Pacific High School, 14,632.10 points.

Top Decathlete: Macy Gage, Lemoore Middle College, $1,000 scholarship; Top Varsity Student: William Young, Lemoore Middle College, $500; Top Scholastic Student: Sidney Sever, Lemoore Middle College, $500; Top Honors Student: Macy Gage, Lemoore Middle College, $500

Top students for each high school: Alejandro Pulido, Avenal High School, $250; Everardo Ramirez, Corcoran High School, $250; Nathalie Aceves, Hanford High, $250; Sarah Grever, Hanford West, $250; Francisco Merino, Lemoore High, $250; Macy Gage, Lemoore Middle College, $250; Amitesh Nagavalli, Sierra Pacific, $250

Other scholarship winners included: Language and Literature, Macy Gage, Lemoore Middle College, $125; Music, Sarah Grever, Hanford West, $125; Science, Mitchell Miya, Sierra Pacific, $125; Art, Macy Gage, Lemoore Middle College, $125, and Braden Jones, Lemoore Middle College, $125; Mathematics, Mitchell Miya, Sierra Pacific, $125; Economics, Sarah Grever, Hanford West, $125; Social Science, Macy Gage, Lemoore Middle College, $125; Essay, Sarah Grever, Hanford West, $125; Speech, Macy Gage, Lemoore Middle College, $125; Speech, Christopher Acevedo, Lemoore Middle College, $125; Speech, Alexis Ricks, Lemoore Middle College, $125; Interview, Magaly Mendoza, Lemoore, $125


Championship team: Yosemite High School, coach Carole Calderwood; team members Katrina Conklin, Alexia Dahlin, Olivia Mattos, Brittany Collier, Brandon Healey, Nikki Johnson, Emily Anderson, Paden Bergdall and Ella Campbell; 36,172.90 points

Top decathlete: Caleb Lynch, Chawanakee Academy Charter, 7,556 points

Super Quiz: Madera South High School

Top scoring seniors, $100 scholarships: Joshua Lynch, Chawanakee Academy; Prabhjot Kaur, Chowchilla Union High School; Jennifer Lind, Liberty High School; Erendira Olivares-Reyes, Madera High School; Ashley Giron-Cortez, Madera South; Sydney Johnson, Minarets High School; Brandon Healey, Yosemite


Championship team: Granite Hills High School, Porterville

Top scoring team, large school category: Granite Hills

Top scoring team, small school category: Orosi High School

Super Quiz: El Diamante High School, Visalia

Top students from each Academic Decathlon category: Art, Ying Yan, El Diamante; Economics, Yash Bhakta, Tulare Union High School; Literature, Meera Kashyap, Harmony Magnet Academy, Strathmore; Math, Jaifreen Bhangu, Dinuba High School; Music (three-way tie), Savannah Banuelos, Granite Hills, Celeste Castro, Granite Hills, and Katherine Pfaff, Woodlake High School; Science, Salvador Centeno, Harmony Magnet; Social science, Celeste Castro, Granite Hills; Essay, Olivia Helpio, El Diamante; Interview, Yash Bhakta, Tulare Union; Speech, Kiley Greenwood, El Diamante

Top students by division: Honors, Celeste Castro, Granite Hills; Scholastic, Amber Swallow, Granite Hills; Varsity, Adrian Gonzales, Granite Hills