VALLEY SAVORS TEAM'S WIN.
As Lily Ngo listened to the news from Rhode Island on Sunday, her joy and relief erupted in a high, loud laugh.
Across the continent from her Canoga Park home, Ngo's son Bruce and seven other El Camino Real High School students had just seized first place in the U.S. Academic Decathlon, a goal that had consumed him for months.
``He's been devoted to this, day and night,'' she said. ``I'm so proud of him!''
Word of the win rippled through the San Fernando Valley on Sunday afternoon, spreading by newscast and phone. Relatives, friends and school district officials alike savored the victory after years of near-misses and marveled at the team's high score - 52,131 out of a possible 60,000.
``It can't get much more perfect,'' said David Tokofsky, a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education.
Eleven years ago, Tokofsky coached the first LAUSD Academic Decathlon team to take the national title. On Sunday he praised the El Camino team members and their teachers, saying that winning requires months of devotion from all involved.
``It takes a tremendous amount of commitment, on the edge of insanity,'' he said.
Ngo said her son did little during the past seven months but study with the team. The effort, she said, paid off by forcing Bruce to become more focused than he had ever been in the past.
Jawad Baig said his cousin on the team, Taimur, even dropped high school football to have a chance at the Academic Decathlon title.
``He gave up everything else when he got on the team,'' Jawad Baig said. ``Proud of him? Sure I am.''
Among members of past El Camino Real teams, Sunday's win was a welcome vindication.
Last year, Mike Montgomery belonged to the El Camino Real team that came in second to James E. Taylor High School of Texas, whose score set a record. It was the second year in a row that El Camino placed second nationally.
``The score we had was just about the third highest score ever,'' he said. ``Any other year, we would have won.''
Although Montgomery only knows a few people on the current team, he said he would congratulate them when they came home.
``Third time's the charm,'' he said. ``It's good for the school, it's good for everyone.''