The 36th annual Riverside County Academic Decathlon will open Saturday, with teams from 17 schools vying for the top spot and an opportunity to represent the county in the statewide competition.

The first half of the countywide decathlon, themed “The 1960s: A Transformational Decade,” is slated to last most of the day at Vista del Lago High School in Moreno Valley, featuring essays, speeches and oral exams in economics, literature, math, music and science.

Teams, composed of nine students each, will have to complete a series of essays and interviews to pass muster and qualify for the “Super Quiz” scheduled for the morning of Feb. 2, according to the county Office of Education.

Elsinore High School took top honors last year and went on to compete in the 2018 California Academic Decathlon, which this year is scheduled for March 21-24 in Sacramento. Elsinore landed in 12th place during last year’s statewide contest.

In addition to Elsinore, students from the following campuses are taking part in the county contest:

— Beaumont High School, which has two teams;

— Canyon Springs High School, Moreno Valley;

— Corona High School;

— Great Oak High School, Temecula;

— Hemet High School, which has two teams;

— Hillcrest High School, Riverside;

— JFK High School, Norco;

— John W. North High School, Riverside;

— Palm Desert High School;

— Patriot High School, Jurupa Valley;

— San Jacinto High School;

— Shadow Hills High School, Indio;

— Temecula Preparatory Academy;

— Valley View High School, Moreno Valley;

— Vista del Lago High School; and

— West Valley High School, Hemet.

Since 2009, the latter has won the countywide decathlon every year except three — 2014, 2017 and 2018.

Hillcrest, JFK and Vista del Lago will be competing for the first time.

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