Above: Members of “Team Togo” — from left, Nikola Pratte, Aled Cuda, Jonathan Liu, Jaren Mendelsohn and Kyle Gusdorf, celebrate their championship with coach Jay Gehringer.
Five juniors from North Hollywood High captured the National CyberPatriot Championship, the second time the school has won the prestigious challenge of computer and critical-thinking skills.
Aled Cuda, Kyle Gusdorf, Jonathan Liu, Jaren Mendelsohn and Nikola Pratte made up Team Togo, which outscored two teams from North Hollywood and nine others from around the country during the week-long competition in Baltimore.
“This was a surprise for us,” Cuda said. “We have been working toward this for three years. We didn’t expect to come this far, and we did. I am very proud of everyone on the team, and I am very happy with how well we did.”
CyberPatriot is a series of intensely rigorous challenges that test students’ knowledge and skills in securing computers and networks from hackers and other cyber threats, representing the next generation of fortification of our national security. More than 11,000 high school students from 2,200 teams nationwide competed for the 12 coveted slots in the Open High School Division of the National Finals.
The students identified as “Team Togo” – named for the 1929 husky sled dog that delivered life-saving medicine during a diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska – have been working as a team since their freshman year.
“Winning the nationals has really shown all of our hard work and dedication,” Liu said. “As a team we work really well together, and this just demonstrates the importance of that.”
In addition to the national champion trophy, each of the five students received a $2,000 scholarship from Northrop Grumman Corp.
Gusdorf said the key was continuing to learn and grow as a collaborative unit.
“This shows how working as a team and paying attention to things that you missed in previous years helps out,” he said. “Zeroing in on what’s really important and what’s going to help you earn those extra points will help you move closer to winning. We have really relied on that to get to where we are now.”
Teammate Mendelsohn also said improvement was a major factor.
“I think it shows the progression in how much we’ve learned over the last three competition seasons,” he said. “The first year we started off slowly. Last year we came really close. This year we won.”
“The competition really shows how we can keep developing and improving,” he said. “If we keep working hard toward a common goal, together we can achieve it. We did it here at Nationals.”
This is the fourth time North Hollywood High has sent at least one team to the national finals since CyberPatriot began in 2009. It is the second time the school has produced the national champion. In 2014, the school’s “Team Azure” took the top prize.
“I am just blown away,” said Jay Gehringer, the school’s Advanced Placement computer science teacher and head coach for the teams. “I am really impressed by these kids, how much their hard work, effort, teamwork and communication with one another helped them achieve something that is not only an academic success but important for their country.”
The students are scheduled to be honored on Friday morning by the City Council during a special ceremony at Los Angeles City Hall.