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HITTING A SERIOUS NOTE DECATHLON TEAM STUDIES COUNTRY MUSIC.

Byline: Sharon Cotal Staff Writer

CANYON COUNTRY - They could pass for a group of teens at a country and western hoedown, except instead of dancing to the music, they sat at a table shouting out music facts about the singers, songwriters and different musical genres.

The Canyon High School Academic Decathlon team actually was in the middle of an all-day cramming session for today's competition, which will take place at Gladstone High School in Azusa.

The Los Angeles County Academic Decathlon tests students' knowledge of 10 subjects, including literature, mathematics, science - and music. This year's focus is country music, so the nine members of the team have been hearing a lot of it lately.

``I had no experience with American music, but now I know all about country music,'' said team member Kaustubh Pandya, who transferred to Canyon from India a year and a half ago. ``I've actually developed a taste for it.''

As Hank Williams crooned his classic ``Lovesick Blues,'' the team discussed every nuance of the song while liberally passing around what they called ``brain food'' - bags of M&M's and Three Musketeers. The fruit and vegetable platters on the next table remained untouched, but, fortunately, nutrition isn't one of this year's topics.

The Canyon High team has spent the past eight months - including holidays, summer vacation, before school and some evenings - exploring the 2002 theme, ``Understanding Others,'' focusing on topics such as Alan Paton's ``Cry, the Beloved Country,'' the art of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Internet and society.

``I feel very optimistic about this team. They're good kids and they've worked really hard,'' said Canyon history teacher and academic adviser Dennis Lynch. ``Plus they are a very well-rounded group. We have athletes, musical kids and kids from the AP classes.''

Chelsea Riggins fit the decathlon study sessions into her already busy schedule as captain of the Cowboys' championship girls soccer team, but said she never considered the extra studying a chore.

``It's challenging, but it's also a lot of fun. You get really close to your teammates, just like in sports,'' Riggins said.

The Canyon team placed 10th out of more than 60 high schools last year, and this year's team hopes to reach the top 10. So they spent the day listening to Johnny Cash belt out ``I Walk the Line.''

``I'm nervous, but this study session helps a lot,'' Riggins said. ``I feel pretty prepared for everything.''

The all-day competition will include prepared and impromptu speeches, written essays and exams, and culminate in a fast-moving team relay event called the Super Quiz.

``It will be stressful because we will be doing it about 12 hours, but it will be fun, too, because we enjoy doing it,'' Pandya said.

This year's Canyon High team is composed of seniors Riggins, Rose Roberts, Jason Hall and returning team member Francis Soriano; and juniors Pandya, Taylor Sutton, Sarah Lee, Jon Urquijo and Stephen Torres.

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1) Kaustubh Pandya says he's learned a lot about country music as part of the Academic Decathlon team at Canyon High School.

(2) Chelsea Riggins celebrates giving a correct answer Friday during a study session for the Academic Decathlon.

(3) Senior Jason Hill and junior Taylor Sutton brush up on their art knowledge in preparation for today's Academic Decathlon.

Shaun Dyer/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 2, 2002
Words:559
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