Rio Mesa competing in Academic WorldQuest national finals

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The Rio Mesa High School Academic WorldQuest team is competing in the national finals for the fifth time since the nationwide contest between high schools began in 2003.

The four-member team of seniors Christopher Russell and Daniel Corbett and freshmen Maurico Mendez and Jordan Strang earned the right to represent Southern California after defeating Mission Viejo High School 75-74 in regional competition in Irvine in February. Rio Mesa will face 45 schools from across the country April 30 in Washington, D.C.

Academic WorldQuest is a flagship program of the World Affairs Council. Academic WorldQuest is a team game including of 10 rounds of 10 questions testing competitors’ knowledge of international affairs, geography, history and culture.

“The whole goal of the game is to increase global awareness,” teacher Chris Moody said.

Moody, who teaches geography and economics at Rio Mesa High, said he put the team together in 2003. The team won three of the four years — 2007, 2008 and 2009 — when the game was sponsored by the Ventura County WorldQuest council.

“We haven’t had a local contest the last two years, probably because of funding,” Moody said. “So last year, we went to Orange County because that was the nearest competition.

“Last year, we finished third,” he added. “This year, Oxnard came out of nowhere and won the competition. It’s been great, a really good run this year. Our seniors are really, really strong and our freshmen are motivated, too.”

Moody said the backbone of the team’s success is Russell, the team captain.

Russell, 18, said he will be attending UC Davis in the fall, where he will major in international relations. He said the competition against Mission Viejo High was intense.

“We were happy to win,” he said. “We went in strong in the first half of the game and built a big lead, but in the second half Mission Viejo started catching up with us. It came down to the final question, which both teams missed. But they challenged, saying their answer was correct.

“But the judges ruled both teams missed the question. I was excited and relieved we hadn’t lost. I like the academic competition because I’m interested in world events and current affairs. When I graduate from UC Davis, I want to work in the nonprofit sector or maybe the State Department.”

Corbett, 17, said he joined the team two years ago at the behest of Russell. He plans to attend UC Berkeley, where he will major in bioengineering.

“I want to go into the field of medicine and design apparatus that can be coordinated with living systems and organisms,” Corbett said.

Corbett said he is aware that Oxnard schools are not always recognized for academics.

“I’m from here and I got a great education,” he said. “It’s a sad misconception that people have a negative view of Oxnard schools. Rio Mesa laid the groundwork for me to move on to college. I hope this (winning regional WorldQuest) will help cure the assumption of poor academics.”

Moody said the Rio Mesa High team will face stiff competition in Washington. He said the Rio Mesa team finished in the top 15 the last time it qualified for the national finals.

“We feel more confident this time because we had a really good showing in Orange County,” he said. “But we’ve got to match the preparation of those East Coast teams.”

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