Not even a spirited challenge from the host could stop Kozhikode from walking away with the Gold Cup at the State School Arts Festival. Kozhikode scored 926 points to win the overall title for the eighth year in a row, while Palakkad finished runner-up with 920.

The two districts had finished the previous night tied on points, and there were several dramatic moments before the championship was finally decided.

Palakkad was ahead by a couple of points for most of the day, before the results were consolidated after considering the appeals against the earlier verdicts and Kozhikode received the cup yet again, in front of a crowd of over 10,000 at the valedictory function at Indira Gandhi Stadium, from Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala, Education Minister P.K. Abdu Rabb and Kavya Madhavan, actor.

This was the 14th overall title for Kozhikode, in the 54th editions of the festival; only Thiruvananthapuram has won more, on 17 occasions, but the capital’s last title was in 1989.

In what was the most exciting race for the Gold Cup in recent time, Thrissur, second last year, took the third place with 918 points, just two behind Palakkad. Malappuram, which was third last year when it was the host, finished fourth with 902 points.

BSS Gurukulam Higher Secondary School, Alathur, Palakkad, won the title for scoring the highest number of points in the high school section, while NS Boys Higher Secondary School, Mannar, Alappuzha, was the best performer in the higher secondary category.

Silver Hills Higher Secondary School and St. Joseph’s Anglo Indian Girls Higher Secondary School contributed most to Kozhikode’s triumph, with 173 and 115 points, respectively.

In the Sanskrit Festival, Kottayam and Malappuram shared the title with 95 points each. In the Arabic festival, there was a four-way tie for the first place, with Kozhikode, Palakkad, Kannur and Malappuram all scoring 95 points apiece.

Mr. Rabb said the next edition of the festival would be held in Ernakulam.