Your team has won something called a cyber triathlon by a bunch. How do you kill time until the other teams finish?
Studying, Ryan Sandau joked Thursday.
“No, we went out in the lobby, we got on my laptop and started playing video games,” he said. “We were pretty psyched.”
“We ate a bunch of cookies,” Jackson Petty added.
Sandau and Petty were part of a team made up of four sophomores and a freshman from Missoula Sentinel High School that won the second annual University of Montana Cyber Triathlon last month.
On Thursday he, Petty, Jackson Servheen, Douglas Stobie and freshman James Driver were presented the “Victory Monster” trophy and a $1,000 check by David Bell of ALPS, one of the event’s sponsors.
Bell didn’t expect to be making the presentation at a high school. Last year’s champs were college students and the rest of this year’s field consisted of teams made up of adults, undergraduate and graduate students.
“I received a text in the middle of the day that said there’s a high-school team in the lead, and I thought to myself, ‘Well, that’s cute. It’ll be short-lived and eventually we’ll have one of the older teams prevail,’ ” Bell told the gym packed with students, teachers and staff in the otherwise senior-oriented assembly.
In fact, that’s what happened last year.
A cyber triathlon is “for all intents and purposes a hacking contest,” Bell explained, with a goal of finding a “cyber coin” somewhere on campus by decrypting, analyzing and coding computer data.
In 2014, the Sentinel team consisting of ninth-graders Servheen, Sandau and Max Thibeau emerged from the digital forensics puzzle in front, but stumbled in the data analytics and penetration testing legs. A UM team found the coin first.
“If the freshmen beat the college students, that’s going to look bad,” Sandau observed to the Missoulian during the competition.
This time, they prepared more and kept expectations at bay.
"We weren’t planning on winning anything," Petty said. "We were like, if we complete the entire thing, that’ll be pretty cool."
The Sentinel team was first to leave game headquarters at the University Center in search of the cyber coin, but got lost a couple of times on the unfamiliar campus.
“We found the coin at the very end, with 40 minutes to an hour before the other teams even got their images to start heading out looking for the coin,” Stobie said.
Then it was time to break out the video games and cookies.
Their winnings included a $1,000 donation to a charity of their choice. The five chose as recipient the team’s breeding grounds, the Sentinel High computer science program.
They’re also splitting $800 in prize money – $500 for finishing first and $300 for being the top high-school team.
“They say about the next generation that they’re our future, and these guys in a lot of ways really are our future,” Bell told the assembly.
“There are thousands of honorable trades and you should pursue whichever one you are passionate about. But one thing to consider: There are few trades through which all other trades intersect, and computer science is one of those.”