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On top of the world

June 10, 2000

Irma Lemus

MAGNOLIA PARK -- In the rush to get home from Tennessee in time for

the senior prom, the John Burroughs High School Odyssey of the Mind team

almost missed out on the news that it won second place... in the world.

Competing on June 1 and flying home the next morning to make that

night's prom, the students used cyberspace June 3 to learn about their

accomplishment.

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"At first we weren't able to get on the Internet to watch the awards,

but then one of our team members has a really good computer so he was

able to get five seconds of it. That's when he heard that we had taken

the silver medal," said Justin Umpierre, 18, a seven-year team veteran.

Burroughs scored nine fewer points than schools from Hong Kong and

North Carolina, which tied for first. The finals were held May 31 to June

3 in Knoxville, Tenn. Burroughs' six-member vehicle team competed against

40 other teams from around the world. It was the school's first

appearance in the international round of Odyssey of the Mind.

Team members Umpierre, Nari Ansari, Jeff Toor, Chris Allison, Pete

Chesney and Orlando Arguello were given their silver medals and trophy

Wednesday night at Burroughs because they had to leave the three-day

competition early. They relied on Cathy Maginn, Los Angeles regional

director for Odyssey of the Mind, to bring home their winning hardware.

"When one of the coaches told me to make sure I pick up the awards for

the kids, I had no idea," Maginn said.

Maginn said the spontaneous problem, a timed exercise that tested the

students ability to think on their feet, put the Burroughs squad over the

top. The team placed first in that portion of the competition, she said.

"We had eight minutes to do the problem and we did it in five,"

Umpierre said.

The problem required the students to stack 100 pennies using paper

clips, straws, tape and other materials, Umpierre said. The catch was the

pennies could not touch each other and had to be at least two inches off

the surface in order to receive credit.

In moments, the team built a 45-inch tall tower that impressed the

judges.

"It wasn't the greatest structure, leaning over a little bit, but it

got the job done," Umpierre said.

Nari, 17, who has also been with the team seven years, has had his

share of honors this month. In addition to being part of the Odyssey

team, he was named salutatorian for the 1999-2000 Burroughs graduating

class.

"This team works because we're not just team members, but we're also

best friends," he said.

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