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Students from John Marshall High School in Los Angeles--where 80 percent of those enrolled learn English as a second language--won the sixth annual U.S. Academic Decathlon last week in Dallas.

And in an event whose publicity boasts of the power to "change lives,'' at least one member of the John Marshall team served as a prime example.

David Florey, a C student at the Los Angeles school, earned a gold medal in 9 of the competition's 10 categories and scored more points than any other participant.

Featured in a segment of "The NBC Nightly News,'' Mr. Florey was given a hero's reception by fellow students on the team's return home. Said the program's anchorman, Tom Brokaw: "All you C students out there, take heart.''

The competition "inspires students at all academic performance levels to excel,'' said William Straughan, senior vice president for World Book Inc. and a member of the decathlon board.

Decathlon teams consist of 11th- and 12th-grade students, and include two A students, two B students, and two C students.

Teams from 38 states completed the two-day series of written tests in economics, fine arts, language and literature, science, social science, and mathematics. Each student also wrote an essay, was interviewed by judges, and gave two speeches.

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