Red Bank Regional High School students took home honors at a national cybersecurity competition.
Seniors Bobby Villaluz of Shrewsbury, Kyle Neary of Shrewsbury, Young Chen of Belmar, and juniors Jack Ferrone of Shrewsbury, Andrew Costa of Shrewsbury and Woody Quinn of Little Silver placed second at the three-day CyberPatriot National Competition in Baltimore, Maryland, according to a press release from the school. Sponsored by the Air Force Association, the competition ran from April 3-5.
The students, known as Team Maroon, previously won the NJ State Champion title and the Northeast Regional title, then earned a spot in the elite top 12 Finals team, according to the press release.
All part of Red Bank High’s Academy of Information Technology (AOIT), the six students were greeted with a reception when they returned to their high school.
“It was really exciting,” Woody said. “I didn’t expect that many to support us, but it was great having the whole school supporting the team.”
“Just that moment walking through the hallways, and having all our classmates supporting us and cheering us made all those hours we spent worth it,” Bobby said.
According to the press release, Bobby and Kyle are three-year veterans of the competition. Red Bank High made it to the top 12 final spots for the past two years, but did not have a top place finish. Previously, Red Bank High placed first at the CyberPatriot competition in 2011.
AOIT teacher and Team Maroon coach Mandy Galante praised the students’ commitment.
“(The students) put in hundreds of hours of practice working together and at home,” Galante said. “To make sure they could fit in a weekend practice, they volunteered to start at 7:30 on Saturdays to work around the jobs that many hold. They are incredibly focused kids; a synonym for commitment is Red Bank High Team Maroon.
“With the program growing exponentially, at this point CyberPatriot is an incredibly elite level of competition,” Galante said.
During the competition, the 12 teams were sequestered in cubicles with their computers and their assignments, according to the press release. The teams spent three hours defending multiple Linux and Windows servers while under an active hacking attack by an in-person Red Team.
“(The competition) was the most stressful it has ever been,” Kyle said. “They just kept on throwing a bunch of different things at us that we had to figure out.”
AOIT teacher and coach Jeremy Milonas found that the team never lost confidence.
“After talking to them on how they feel the competition went and what they did, I had no doubt they were going to end up with one of the top spots,” Milonas said.
“We were very confident until the (awards) dinner,” Andrew said. “There was a lot of adrenaline at that dinner.”
“The important thing is that we did everything together as one team and as one family,” Young said. “That trumps everything.”
Following their experiences, Bobby will study computer science at Cornell University in the fall, Kyle will study computer security at Drexel University and Young will attend Champlain College, where he intends to study for a career as a forensic digital analyst. Andrew and Woody are similarly considering studying computer science/cybersecurity in college, according to the press release.
For Jack, the competition has given him an interest in the military.
“Based on what we saw at the (Northrup Grumman tour) military base, it really inspired me,” Jack said. “I want to join the military now.”
“This program is huge for these kids’ future,” Milonas said. “It prepares them with real life skills as professionals in an industry that is so important to our country’s future with the need to protect our infrastructure and all our personal identifiable information. This was one of the goals of this program.”