Granite Hills High School three-peated as victors of the Tulare County Academic Decathlon and will compete against California’s best in Sacramento come March.
Team 2 of the Granite Hill Grizzlies’ won the large school division, while Orosi High School won the Small schools division after Saturday’s (Feb. 3) Super Quiz that tested kids on their knowledge of Africa.
Approximately 55 high school students from 10 Tulare County schools were challenged on art, economics, literature, mathematics, music, science, social science. Additionally the kids were graded on essays, speech and interviews. Only the Super Quiz portion of the competition was public.
Dating back to 1998, Granite Hills has won 12 county titles. The competition dates back to 1990, but additional records were destroyed due to a computer crash.
Granite Hills head coach Elissa Lombardi, an experienced decathlon coach of at least eight years, understood the challenge.
“Seven new students out of nine. It was very challenging because they were very nervous,” said Lombardi.
“The didn’t know how to do the Super Quiz, they felt very nervous about the speech, but I had a lot of support on my campus.”
Lombardi, who has coached for at least eight years, also led last year’s Porterville-based squad to the California Academic Decathlon in Sacramento.
Daniel Díaz, a senior at Granite Hills, was his team’s leading boy’s medalist with 8.
“I plan on attending COS (College of the Sequoias) and then attending UC Davis. I want to major in animal science,” said Díaz, 18.
Diaz has a 2.8 grade point average at Granite Hills. He’s also researched UC Berkeley, and Capella University.
“I arrived at the university that I want to go to because they are rated No. 1 nationally for their animal science program,” added Díaz, who is interested in opening a slaughter house in Texas upon graduation from college.
Gwenyth English, a junior, led her female Granite Hills teammates with 9 medals; eight gold and one bronze.
“I didn’t even know before that it (Africa) was the second-largest continent in the world,” said English, who is already mulling over colleges UCLA and Fresno State.
“It was very fascinating to read about all of it.”
According to the Tulare County officials, Orosi High School has never represented the county at the state level.
Lead medalist for Orosi was Pedro Méndez, a 16-year-old who has never competed in an academic decathlon, yet won 10 medals.
Orosi High English teacher Daniel Albers led the team to the small schools victory.
“One of my friends said, ‘All you do is test,’ and I said, ‘OK, no problem,’” said Méndez, “I just wanted to see what this was about; like to experience it.”
Méndez, who said he was never invited to his team’s weekly gatherings, was most impressed with Africa’s music.
With regard to his many medals, Méndez, who has an approximate 2.4 grade point average, simply said, “I’m surprised. I didn’t study. I’d like to do something with technology in college.”
Méndez, a shot put athlete in track and field, said he would rejoin the team next year if one of his friends joins as well.
Granite Hills High School (Tulare) 2016 through 2018; 2003 through 2011.
Harmony Magnet Academy (Strathmore) 2012 through 2014.
Monache High School (Porterville) 1999, 2000, 2002.
Lindsay High School 1998, 2001.
El Diamante High School (Visalia) 2015
Note: Additional years were unobtainable.