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N. Hollywood again makes a science of victory

Times Staff Writer

To say that North Hollywood High was favored to win a trophy at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s Science Bowl regional competition would be an understatement.

North Hollywood had placed first in the competition eight of the last nine years, and last year its team was runner-up at the National Science Bowl.

So when the dust settled Saturday, as expected, North Hollywood’s “A” team garnered another title in what has become one of the most dominant performances by a Southern California high school in academic competition.

The team will represent Los Angeles at the National Science Bowl on April 26-30 in Washington, D.C.

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So deep is North Hollywood’s strength that its “B” team won fourth place in the regional event, which featured 42 teams from 26 schools competing in a round-robin tournament at the DWP’s downtown headquarters. Granada Hills Charter High School placed second, and El Camino Real High in Woodland Hills came in third.

“We just get great kids,” said North Hollywood Coach Altair Maine, trying to explain his school’s success.

“It’s a prestigious program in school because we’ve done so well, so it makes recruiting easy and expectations high. The best kids in the program try out. You don’t want yours to be the team that doesn’t win.”

In its 15th year, the regional Science Bowl covers such subjects as computer science, physics, chemistry, astronomy and mathematics.

The North Hollywood team -- team captain Anguel Alexiev, John Chen, Andrew David, James Kim and Emily Law -- excels in the art of anticipation, hitting the buzzer with the right answer with warp-speed reflexes before the question is finished being read.

“With the Science Bowl,” said Anguel, 17, “it’s not so much knowing enough as it is actually finding the perfect balance between speed and knowledge.”

One of Anguel’s multiple-choice questions from Saturday involved marine reptiles. He buzzed on the question about as soon as the moderator uttered the syllable “ich,” knowing it to be a prefix for fish and got the right answer, ichthyosaur.

Andrew, 17, who was on the North Hollywood “B” team last year, said Saturday’s competition was “the most nerve-racking day of my life.”

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The North Hollywood team has a history with his family and was once known as the enemy.

Andrew’s older brother Michael competed for Van Nuys High in the regional Science Bowl for three years. Their parents, Lisa and Stephen David, refused to let Andrew compete for North Hollywood as a freshman so the two brothers would never match up.

“To see one of our own boys on the first-place Science Bowl team was emotionally wrenching,” Lisa David said.

“When Andrew answered one of the multiple-choice questions correctly toward the end of the final round and I knew that it sealed the North Hollywood win, I burst into tears. It’s just so overwhelming to realize these kids work so hard, and live and breath science and math and are so passionate about these subjects.”

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carla.rivera@latimes.com


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