Sunny Hills Science Olympiad team advances to state tournament April 2


Susie Kim

Member junior Thaddaeus Kiker(right) and co-captain Dahee Kim compete in the Detector Building event during the Feb. 26 online satellite Southern California Joint Regional Science Olympiad tournament. The team places sixth overall and will advance to compete at the state level April 2.

Alice Shin, Managing Editor

For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down competitive events statewide in 2020, the Sunny Hills Science Olympiad team has advanced to the Southern California State Science Olympiad April 2. 

“I am very impressed with our team,” Science Olympiad adviser Alexander Hua said. “I am excited that these students will get a chance to compete in the state competition.”

As a result of Sunny Hills placing sixth at the Saturday, Feb. 26, online Southern California Joint Regional Science Olympiad tournament for the Orange County region, the school’s 15-member team will compete in Division C during the virtual event that will be held in Hua’s classroom, Room 111.

Before the pandemic, the state contest was held in California Institute of Technology with the results announced the day of the tournament. But because it will be virtual with students submitting their entries online, they will not know the results until April 9.

Hua and his Science Olympiad club found out that they had qualified for the next round on Saturday, March 5, through a video announcement from Science Olympiad officials. As in past years, only schools that placed in the top seven in the regional level can advance to the state tournament.

“I’m really grateful toward all our team members who put in so much work and time to prepare for all our competitions, despite them sadly being online again this year,” said Olympiad co-captain junior Magdalene Kho, who found out about her team’s placement March 5 when the team gathered at her house to see the results together. “We only had a couple events that placed this year, [but] instead, I think our team is really good at getting good average placements, which allowed us to beat out some other teams.”

During the Feb. 26 competition, the team competed in Hua’a class from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and then moved to the gym, where team members worked until 5 p.m. to submit results for the Ping Pong Parachute and Wright Stuff events.

“It [was] such an exciting surprise that we placed in the top six,” said freshman Sophia Kiker, who along with her older brother and fellow team member – a junior – had moved to Orange County from the East Coast to attend Sunny Hills at the beginning of this school year. “We studied really hard and invested a lot of time into our events, but despite the sacrifices we made, the other teams competing were significantly competent as well, so for that reason, it was difficult to predict the results.”

Of the 15 students in the team, seven members placed within second to sixth in various categories, which include Astronomy, Cybersecurity, Forensics, Remote Sensing and Write It CAD It, Science Olympiad co-captain junior Da-Hee Kim said.

The team had made history when it qualified for the first time to compete at the state tournament two years ago, but the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic forced the event to be canceled, spoiling those students’ chances of realizing their dream of advancing deep into the Science Olympiad season.

“It will be the first time since I’ve been coaching that they will actually be able to compete against other schools in the state competition,” said Hua, who started co-coaching with science teacher Christopher Ghareebo in the 2019-2020 school year. “I am proud of how far they’ve come this year, and we are all happy to be able to participate and compete in this state tournament.”

Kim also believed the team was able to advance through the members’ persistence in attending practices after school, even with extracurricular activities and school work.

“We prepared for the tournament by practicing every week [as] Mr. Hua has his room open every day in order for the team members to come in and study,” she said. “We will be doing what we have been doing so far as it worked out for us very well.”

Furthermore, Kho is in favor of being able to cooperate with her team members during their after school practices and believes the relationships between the members will contribute to a better teamwork.

“Most of what goes on during practice is individual or between whoever’s doing that event, but it’s nice to be together and bond while we work,” she said. “I think we’re much closer and tight-knit compared to some other teams, and that helps encourage us to do well and also enjoy our time competing.”

Likewise, Kiker attributes the high regional placement to the captains’ efforts in supporting the team members and hopes to excel as they prepare to compete at the state level.

“Our captains have done a fabulous job creating our weekly practice schedules and thoughtfully putting us in events we would flourish in,” she said. “We are just so happy to make it this far, and each of us are going to study and try our very best during the state [tournament].”