After two years of preparation and competition, four West Junior High eighth-graders earned a chance to show off their math smarts — and they won first place in the state MathCounts competition last weekend, beating 44 other schools for the title.
This is the second year in a row that West Junior High has won first place in the competition.
This year’s team of math whizzes, made up of two boys, Ashok Cutkosky and Ming Cheng, and two girls, Gina Pai and Abby Sun, all take honors math classes.
“Their success is a combination of devotion and intelligence,” said Mike Rowson, a math teacher at the school and the teams’ writing coach. “They worked well together — they are quick and brilliant.”
The team has spent an hour each week since September preparing for the competition. As February arrived, the students increased their practices to twice a week.
Pai, whose favorite math subject is algebra, said she’s practiced for the competition since sixth grade. She and her teammates took several tests and solved countless problems to prepare for the competition.
A geometry specialist, Cutkosky said he too has been preparing since sixth grade. He said the team considered different strategies to prepare for competition.
The competition was divided into three rounds: the Sprint Round, Target Round and the Team Round. In the Sprint Round, the students had to individually solve 30 problems in 40 minutes without a calculator. In the Target Round, individual students had six minutes to solve two challenging problems. They solved four sets of two questions in all for that round.
Before the Team Round, Cheng, Pai, Cutkosky and Sun were in fifth place, but the students pulled through to solve 10 problems in 20 minutes and to finish in first place.
“We worked well together,” Cutkosky said. “We’re relaxed around each other and we made sure to check each other’s work.”
Rowson agreed and was proud of the students’ success.
“They really did well,” he said. “It was a team victory.”