Chemistry Olympiad Advances to Nationals


By: Brendan Munoz
Photos by: Brent Shenton

In yet another display of their academic prowess, Valencia High School’s Chemistry Olympiad swept the competition in the Orange County Regional Round. On March 10, students Aayush Somani (11), Jiwon Jeong (10), Chanson Zhao (12), Ishaan Shah (12), and Paige Harakuni (12) collectively placed first in this competition at Irvine Valley College. Participants individually completed a rigorous 60 question multiple choice assessment in under 2 hours, with their scores being compiled per high school. Although a team effort, only two students from each high school are permitted to compete in nationals. Somani and Jeong were given the honor of representing Valencia due to their remarkably high scores and dedicated work ethics.

Of the five members, four are taught by chemistry teacher Brady Bilhartz in his Higher Level (HL) chemistry class. This convenience gave students extra assistance in preparing for events as they had the opportunity to both utilize class time and look to Bilhartz for any advice regarding the various HL concepts they tackle. As for the other student, Somani, he was guided through the pre-season by the club’s advisor and chemistry teacher, Brent Shenton. When asked about the struggles he faced during competition, Somani disclosed that he grappled with a few unfamiliar concepts, stating “I had to trust in what I had learned up to this point”. Somani and Jeong are now in the process of intensively preparing before their advancement to the national level.

With over a thousand competitors set to contend nationwide on April 21, Jeong and Somani are the two strongest candidates representing our student body. The competition entails an arduous five hour exam as well as multiple lab procedures. Jeong is optimistic, claiming “Even if it seems really hard, Mr. Shenton provides a lot of research and dedicates much of his time which makes the process a lot easier.” From nationals, the top twenty individual students are selected to further prepare at the Air Force Academy. Of these high achievers, four are granted the prestige of representing the United States in the Czech & Slovakian Republics against approximately 80 competing countries in July.