One of the most dominant high school teams in history certainly has the right chemistry.
Troy High School in Fullerton, California, has created a dynasty in the world of science competition, known as the Science Olympiad. Troy Tech, as the school is sometimes known, claims a magnet program that draws in qualified students from all over the Southern California district that focuses on science and technology. Some 65 percent of its students are enrolled in the program. It’s won 13 of the past 23 national tournaments in a season that extends from October to May.
People have posted on Science Olympiad fora and authored blog posts about the team: “This school’s performance in Science Olympiad the past two decades is truly the stuff of fables,” reads an excerpt from one of them. What makes the Troy Science Olympiad team such a national powerhouse?
“When you think Troy, you think Science Olympiad,” says Patrick Rim, one of last year’s co-captains. Coaching from Kurt Wahl — who co-founded the team in the ‘80s — and Troy alumnus Justin Kim provides a foundation that attracts would-be competitors to the magnet school. Competitive tryouts, after-school practices with a wide variety of snacks, and a tight-knit team keep the bar high.
Tryouts for this year haven’t taken place yet, so Inverse spoke to the two coaches and four former captains of the Troy Science Olympiad team — Rim, Sean Lin, Shivana Anand, and Louis Wong — about making the team, their favorite events, and the moment of victory.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did the Troy SciOly team start? How has it changed over time?
Kurt Wahl: I had just started at Troy in ’86 or ’87 and then they got some information about a competition. They wanted some people from Orange County to do it. In physics, we had done some projects, toothpick bridges and stuff like that. That first year, I recruited kids out of physics class. I think it was because I was the new guy, they were like, “Here, you do this.” We had virtually a week of preparation, and we came in fourth, which is pretty good seeing as we didn’t really know what we were doing.