A 17-year-old from San Clemente and a Ventura teen-ager were the top winners last Saturday in California's first Citizen Bee competition, where 33 high school finalists tested their academic strengths in subjects such as American history, geography, economics, politics, culture and current events.
Margaret Kuo, a senior at San Clemente High School, finished second, and Stephanus Philip of Moorpark, a student at Chaminade College Preparatory, finished first in the head-on competition.
"I'm really proud," said Kuo, a straight-A student who plans to attend UCLA and study law. "The questions were a lot tougher and the contestants were much better prepared than in the regional competitions. It was, in a word, intense."
Kuo, Philip and third-place winner Ken Kuniyuki of Torrance now advance to the national competition June 17 in Washington, where they will face 73 other contestants from 28 states.
Kuo said she was elated at the idea of traveling to the nation's capital for the finals. She is the first girl to reach the national finals in 4 years of Citizen Bee competition.
The contest was developed by the Close Up Foundation, a nonprofit group in Washington. It was sponsored by The Times and held in the newspaper's auditorium in downtown Los Angeles.
To reach the state finals, the students competed against more than 1,000 students from 150 Southern California schools in February and won their way through 11 regional competitions held in March.