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Decathlon title in hand, El Camino Real gets ready to celebrate

Yana Gracile | April 30, 2014

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The winning team Photo: LA Daily News

The winning team
Photo: LA Daily News

And now for the celebration.

In honor of its seventh national Academic Decathlon championship, El Camino Real Charter High School in Woodland Hills is holding a rally tomorrow morning for a team that won the title last Saturday in Honolulu.

Neighboring Granada Hills Charter High School, which had won the championship in each of the previous three years, placed second. The field included 50 other teams from the U.S., the United Kingdom and China

El Camino’s nine-member team — eight seniors and one junior — worked every day for nearly a year to prepare for the two-day event, earning 52,601 of 60,000 points in a competition with World War I as this year’s theme. Granada Hills scored 52,392 points.

Senior Justin Chau, whose excels in the subject of music, told LA School Report that the experience was hard but worth it.

“It’s been incredible, it feels so amazing to know that all of our work has paid off,” he said. “We’ve all had our mental breakdowns. We’ve all had those days where we were just so tired and stressed but we made it through.”

Coach Stephanie Franklin said the key to the team’s success was working together on every aspect of the competition, from lesson plans to dealing with the mental strain of preparation.

“They understand that pressure is part of it,” she said. “We talk our way through it. We talk about what they’re afraid of. We rehearse the things that they’re concerned about. We make sure they know they’re not alone and that they’re going to be supported.”

Franklin said the most important part for her was letting the kids know how valuable they are.

“My kids know I’m proud of them no matter what they do,” she said. “They know to expect my support in everything they do.”

And that strong support turned into a winning combination with team members answering questions in 10 different categories, ranging from science to literature to Word War I, earning a 15th national championship for an LA Unified school.

But it’s not only about winning, Chau said. It was the experience he had with coach Franklin will stay with him throughout his lifetime.

“Our coach is absolutely amazing,” he said. “I’ve never met such a great leader and I can honestly say she’s changed my life.”

Chau’s teammates were Jose Apolaya, Rohan Boone, Melissa Cheng, Neelem Sheikh, Brandon Slater, Thasneem Syed, Sandra Vadhin and Eric Yun.


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