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EL CAMINO REAL'S WHIZ KIDS BATTLE FOR TIE IN SUPER QUIZ.

Byline: Mary F. Pols Daily News Staff Writer

In a tension-filled finish, Woodland Hills' El Camino Real High School turned months of study sessions into sweet victory, tying for first place in the Super Quiz portion of the California Academic Decathlon Saturday night with Fresno County's Edison High School.

``That was rad,'' said El Camino team member Jackie Moses, smiling from ear to ear as her teammates whooped, hollered and flung their arms around each other.

Two other local teams competing in the statewide tournament also shined in the decathlon's only public event. Alemany High School and Simi Valley High tied for second place along with Orange County's Trabuco Hills High School.

Final results of the two-day academic decathlon will be announced at a banquet on the Cal Poly campus in Pomona this morning, although Super Quiz results are typically considered a good indicator of which teams are leading the pack. The winner of the state tournament will go on to the national Academic Decathlon in St. George, Utah, on April 18-20.

Coming from behind to finish with a Super Quiz score of 57 out of a possible 60, the El Camino team was jubilant but a little surprised.

``During the end of the second round, we didn't think we were going to win,'' said El Camino team member Adi Zarchi.

For a few minutes, El Camino coaches Dave Roberson and Sharon Markenson seemed to have their doubts as well. At the end of the second round, El Camino had 37 points. So did three other teams. Ventura County and Sonoma County's team were ahead of them. And Alemany was looking awfully good with a perfect score.

Nervously trying to calculate the total scores on a piece of paper, Roberson fretted about losing and wondered if his team had studied the quiz topic ``The Information Revolution'' enough.

``We should have hit Super Quiz a little more,'' he said. ``The last two weeks we never looked at Super Quiz.''

Meanwhile, Alemany coach Janie Prucha was gleeful at her team's success. Going into the last round, the nine-member team, representing Southern California's private schools, had 40 out of 40 possible points.

``They are the best,'' Prucha said.

This was the second statewide decathlon appearance for the Mission Hills school. In 1996, Alemany finished ninth in the state, while El Camino finished first. The Woodland Hills whiz kids then went on to the national tournament in Atlanta, narrowly losing to a team from Texas.

The Super Quiz competition is divided into three sections, beginning with a round of 10 questions for the three varsity team members, who have C grade-point averages. Each question is worth a point, but the lowest set of scores for each team are thrown out. So in each round, a team can accumulate up to 20 points.

After the varsity players finished their round, the B students, or scholastic team, took their place on the floor. With proctors monitoring their every move, each player had seven seconds to answer each question. Their scores were announced to the crowd with a wave of a flag marked with the number of correct answers.

In the final round, the A students, or honors division, stepped up to the plate with the total scores from the first two rounds scrolling across a screen in front of them. The red letters spelled out trouble for El Camino; Alemany was leading with 40 points, the team from Sonoma County had 39, Simi Valley High had 38 points, and Orange County and Fresno County both had 37.

Clutching each other's hands, the honors team, Michal Engelman, Steve Chae and Dawn Robinson walked out to take their seats on the floor. Their faces were solemn. The first question rang out. Pencils scribbled on paper. Answer sheets were handed over to the proctors. Someone on the El Camino team had missed an answer. The flag went up, a two.

Over at the Alemany section, the yellow flag with a three went up. Another perfect score.

The questions went on: computer parts, Internet ethics, who invented what, who said what. With each right answer, Michal would look over her shoulder, nod at Steve, who would nod back and then turn to Dawn. A quick nod from Dawn and they were ready for the next question.

In the end, two of the El Camino team members managed to nail down perfect scores, pulling up the overall El Camino score to a 57 to tie with the Fresno County team.

``Tied for first, tied for first, tied for first,'' chanted Roberson before rushing off to hug his team.

Later, as all the teams left the auditorium to have dinner and go to a dance back at their hotel, Dawn and Steve were still holding hands. Was it superstition?

``No,'' Steve laughed. ``We're no longer two people, we've merged into one. Actually we're no longer nine people. We're one.''

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

Photo: (1--color) Steve Chae and Jackie Moses of El Camino Real High School's academic decathlon team share a victory hug.

(2--color) Alemany High's members react to their second-place finish in the Super Quiz.

Hans Gutknecht/Daily News
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 16, 1997
Words:858
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