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Marshall and others carry on LAUSD’s decathlon tradition

Chase Niesner | February 24, 2014

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California Academic Decathlon Home of the National Academic Decathlon champions for 8 of the last 10 years, LAUSD is no stranger to success in the annual academic competition for high school students. And neither is this year’s district winner, John Marshall High School. The Los Feliz school will represent LAUSD at the state level in March alongside a handful of other district schools, some for the first time and others with a no less storied past.

The team and LAUSD’s 11 other state representatives, which include previous state and national champions Granada Hills Charter, El Camino Real Charter, and Taft Charter, and first-time state qualifiers Grant High, have all have all been buoyed by the support their schools’ own communities and the greater LAUSD community, too, which has recently struggled to maintain the decathlon program during periods of budget cuts.

“I join with the extended Marshall High School family in saluting the students, their families and their coaches for this tremendous win in the Academic Decathlon,” LAUSD Board Member Bennett Kayser said in a press release earlier this month. “To think it was just two years ago that the entire Academic Decathlon program was almost eliminated at LAUSD but for the goodwill of our employees who took pay cuts to save this and other valuable programs.”

For students on the Marshal team, practice sessions start at 2 pm, and last six hours a day, six days a week,” according to the LA Times. At 3:30, the boys slip into blazers and the girls into high heels, and the team warms-up for the speech portion of their practice routine by reading Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” with corks between their teeth. The students then line up to deliver their speeches before hallway lockers.

If the team finds wins in Sacramento next month, it will be off to Hawaii for the National Championship in April. It’ll be new for this group of students, and even their veteran coach Larry Welch, but not for team Marshall. The school took home the national title twice before, in 1987 and 1995.

Since 1987, L.A. Unified has won 19 state contests and 14 national titles.

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