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Hockey and basketball aren't the only competitions that heat up in March. Math whizzes, too, get their time to shine in the cold prespring sunlight.

Every mid-March, Minnesota's brightest middle-school math students compete in the MATHCOUNTS program, a joint project of the National Society of Professional Engineers and many businesses that was launched in 1983. In Minnesota, the tourney is coordinated by volunteers from the Minnesota Society of Professional Engineers.

On Saturday, four young math masters nabbed top honors at the competition, held at the Crowne Plaza Conference Center in Plymouth:

• First place: Michael Tang, an eighth-grader at Valley View Middle School in Edina.

• Second place: Matthew Qu, a sixth-grader at Wayzata Central Middle School in Plymouth.

• Third place: Amith Bhat, an eighth-grader at Lake Middle School in Woodbury.

• Fourth place: Richard Huang, a seventh-grader at Kellogg Middle School in Rochester.

The four, who were among 132 participants representing 43 state schools, will form the team that will represent Minnesota in the national MATHCOUNTS event in Washington, D.C., in May.

Placing fifth and sixth were Alex Pan, a seventh-grader at Scott Highlands Middle School in Apple Valley, and Frank Han, a sixth-grader at Cedar Ridge Middle School in Eden Prairie.

The top-scoring team at the meet was Valley View Middle School from Edina. Its members are seventh-grader Richard Zhu and eighth-graders Michael Tang, Tommy Jiang and Jenny Zhang. Valley View's coach, Margaret Schlukebier, will coach the Minnesota team in the national competition.

Other top-scoring teams, from second to 10th place, were Blake Middle School in Hopkins, Chippewa Middle School in North Oaks, Wayzata East Middle School in Plymouth, Friedell Middle School in Rochester, Wayzata Central Middle School in Plymouth, Lake Middle School in Woodbury, Kellogg Middle School in Rochester, Central Middle School in Eden Prairie and Scott Highlands Middle School in Apple Valley.