West High School's Kevin Gupta, left, with Albert Lee, center, and Jordan Smolinsky celebrate after winning the over all with 44,592 points during the Los Angeles County Academic Decathlon at the Quiet Canyon Country Club on Thursday February 12, 2009 in Montebello. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Keith Birmingham)

MONTEBELLO - Rosemead, Arroyo and Rowland high schools pulled in a solid top-20 performance among 66 area high schools in this year's Los Angeles County Academic Decathlon, which held its annual awards banquet Thursday at Quiet Cannon Country Club.

During a raucous awards banquet Thursday at Quiet Cannon Country Club, Rosemead High decathlon coach Eric Burgess said he had a "better grasp" of the event this year after heading up the team for three years.

"I think they did a good job," Burgess said. "We recruited kids who bought into what we wanted to do, so I have no complaints."

The decathlon is sponsored by the Downey-based Los Angeles County Office of Education. It tests students on analytical skills, performance abilities and writing aptitude in 10 categories: art, economics, essay, interview, language and literature, math, music, social science, speech and Super Quiz.

A total of 66 teams and more than 600 students competed in this year's decathlon, including 16 squads in the junior division.

The decathlon winner was West High School in Torrance, which jumped from fourth place last year to the top spot this year by earning 44,592 out of a possible 60,000 points. Following closely in second place was Mark Keppel High in Alhambra, which earned 44,438 points.

"Congratulations to all the winners," said Los Angeles County Superintendent Darline P. Robles, adding that this year's event was "one that was not only highly competitive, but fair, friendly and fun for all."

Aside from West High, the teams that earned enough points to qualify them as "wild card" entrants in the state decathlon are Mark Keppel High, Torrance High, Alhambra High, El Rancho High in Pico Rivera, South High in Torrance, Redondo Union High and Beverly Hills High.

The top-scoring local schools were 11th-place Rosemead High, which earned 38,997 points; 16th-place Arroyo High in El Monte, which scored 36,846 points; and 17th-place Rowland High earned 36,642 points.


PHOTO GALLERY

Los Angeles County Academic Decathlon

"It was a fun experience - we got to work together and compete in an environment that really stimulates you," said Rowland High senior William Juang, 17.

"I know for me it was a really good experience, and I think that goes for everyone on the team."

The decathlon, which focused this year on Latin America, is designed to promote self-assurance, academic enrichment and teamwork among students from all academic backgrounds, officials said.

The California Academic Decathlon winner will earn a trip to the national competition on April 22-25 in Memphis, Tenn.

Last year's state champion - Moorpark High in Ventura County - went on to win the national contest.

tracy.garcia@sgvn.com

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