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EL CAMINO ACADEMIC TEAM MAY WIN IT ALL.

Byline: Sherry Joe Crosby Daily News Staff Writer

El Camino Real High School battled its way to sixth place Saturday in the public portion of the Super Quiz, the most raucous event of the U.S. Academic Decathlon.

The Woodland Hills team members remained hopeful that they would get first place in the overall decathlon when final results are announced today.

The school's eight-student squad correctly answered 36 of 45 questions Saturday, but was unable to stop dark horse Catholic Memorial High School of Wisconsin from surging ahead to win the event.

El Camino coach Mark Johnson said he was extremely pleased with his team's effort.

``I'm so proud of them,'' said Johnson, moments after the contest ended at the Community College of Rhode Island in the Providence suburb of Warwick.

``They had so much pressure on them. They had TV cameras on them. There were some tough questions. I couldn't be prouder.''

Tying for second place were teams from New Mexico, Ohio, Arizona and Texas. A high school from Massachusetts placed third.

El Camino still could come out winner of the overall Academic Decathlon when results are announced today during an awards banquet at the Rhode Island Convention Center.

Saturday's scores represent only 40 percent of the Super Quiz, which comprises written and oral exams. And the Super Quiz is only one of 10 decathlon events.

``All that matters is the one number, and that comes out tomorrow,'' said Adi Zarchi, 17, referring to the elusive gold medal the team has been seeking for the past two years.

Nationally, the Woodland Hills squad finished second in 1996 and 1997, and fourth in 1991.

It has never placed first in the grueling competition, which tests students in six academic disciplines. Students also must write a timed essay, deliver speeches and undergo an interview.

This year, the team has managed to do superbly despite the early departure of one member who was unable to keep pace with the 10- to 12-hour study sessions held daily after class.

In March, El Camino won the California Academic Decathlon, beating out 49 other schools to garner 51,100 points out of 60,000 - a record for the state competition.

``They're a strong team,'' said Jim Centorino, an El Camino teacher who coached the squad in physics and music, and who flew out to root them on.

``They're hanging right close with only eight team members,'' he said. ``They just have to pull a little bit more weight.''

El Camino senior Steve Chae, 18, who clutched a stuffed red lobster during the fast-paced question-and-answer relay, said the squad's Super Quiz score puts it in a good position to win the decathlon.

``Even though we're missing one person, we still came in sixth,'' Chae said. ``It boosts our confidence. We knew it would be extremely difficult to come (out on) top, and we did really well.''

After the event, the team planned to travel to Newport to see its famed ocean-front mansions. Members also planned a night of bridge, their favorite card game.

``We're not going to sleep tonight,'' promised a gleeful Carina Yuen, 17.

CAPTION(S):

Photo

PHOTO El Camino senior Steve Chae says his team's sixth-place Super Quiz score puts them in a good position for today's competition.

Robert Button/Associated Press
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 26, 1998
Words:548
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