Angeles Archdiocese's 2005 Academic Junior High Decathlon March 5 at
Loyola Marymount University.
This was the first time students from St. Robert Bellarmine
Elementary School won first place in any subject. They are the only
private school in Burbank that placed within the top 10 of any
"We went in doing exactly what we practiced," said the team's
moderator, Rachel Rufus. "So it was like second nature."
The children scored first place in the science and current events
tests and the team logic test, resulting in first place out of 13
schools in the Deanery and overall second out of 84 participating
The students attributed much of their success to teamwork and to
"Our moderator, Ms. Rufas, she set us up perfectly," Danielle
D'Agostaro, 13, said. "We had our partners and worked well with
Out of 10 students on the team, eight performed individual subject
tests. Emily Nardoni, 13, won first place for her performance on the
science test. Elias Shanaa, 14, placed first in current events.
Jonathan DeSimone, 13, won second place in the religion test, and
Nicholas Huynh, 11, placed seventh in the fine arts category. All
students worked on the "super quiz," covering five subjects.
And all of them worked on the logic test, another team event that
was a first-time win for the school.
"Where someone was weak in a subject, someone else was strong,"
That's how moderator Rufas trained them, knowing their exceptional
potential, she said. Rufas is now a student at Cal State Northridge
but participated in the decathlon when she attended St. Robert
Ashley Almanza, 14, focused on math. D'Agostaro covered social
studies and geography. Bianca Garoian, 14, prepared for the
language/grammar test. Chynna Ladage, 13, was the literature guru.
Gerard Garoian, 12, and Samantha Jacinto, 13, specialized in the
But the students did struggle with some of the questions on the
super quiz because they were different from what they studied, they
"In the middle of super quiz everybody was discouraged, but we
sort of came back," Shanaa said.
The students divided their work effectively and conquered,
language/grammar, coach Fatima Kastariaj said.
"Each one took a special area," Kastariaj said. "So the minute the
questions came, they said 'who is going to do what?'"
Their landmark win, combined with their dedication and teamwork
has made the school proud and will inspire future Academic Junior
High Decathlon teams at St. Robert Bellarmine Elementary, Principal
June Rosena said.
"They wanted to win," she said. "These are the people that are
going to lead our world."