They had defeated the 10 other schools that participated in the 10-week academic competition, pitting school against school in a question-and-answer "Jeopardy!"-like format.
It was the first time that Weehawken won the Hudson County Academic Bowl tournament in the eight years of the program, and it marked the first time in over three decades that a Weehawken High School extracurricular activity won a Hudson County championship of any kind.
This year, the undaunted quiz mastering wiz kids from Weehawken didn't just want to settle for a repeat performance. They had higher goals in mind.
"Last year's team set some pretty high standards," said senior Samantha Pierre. "We wanted to keep the tradition going."
"There was a little bit of pressure," said senior Jonathan Barracato, the team's captain. "There was a sense of pride living up to what we did last year."
Not only did the Weehawken Academic Team repeat as Hudson County champions, but they qualified to compete in the Rutgers Academic Challenge on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, locking horns with 44 of the best academic teams in the state.
They also participated in the World Citizens Day competition at Montclair State University, answering questions on geography and culture, and took home first prize among 16 schools, defeating such prestigious schools as Blair Academy, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Lakewood Prep, Bernards and Queen of Peace.
And next month, for the first time ever, Weehawken will compete in the National Academic Championships. The talented whiz kids will travel to Washington, D.C. for the regional tournament June 3 through 6, and if they win there, then they move on to the national championships in St. Louis the following weekend.
Going to D.C.
It marks the first time that the Weehawken Academic Team will participate on the national level.
"We're really excited about going to Washington," Barracato said. "Since we're the first to do it, it makes it very special and makes it a bigger source of pride. It's just a great feeling. Academics often get overlooked in terms of other accomplishments, so this is great that we're getting the chance to go."
Senior Jorge Janampa can't wait for the opportunity to go to the nation's capital.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," Janampa said. "I love Washington and I love competing. It's going to be a great experience. It's like a reward for us. "
Pierre said that she hasn't been to Washington since she went on a class trip in sixth grade.
"It's exciting that we're all returning again and this time, it will probably be the last activity we do before we graduate," said Pierre, who will attend the College of William & Mary in the fall. "I think everyone is so proud of us and supporting us."
Weehawken defeated Kearny in the county semifinals, then toppled High Tech of North Bergen in the championship round by more than 100 points.
"They followed in their predecessor's footsteps tremendously," said Mary Bea Kingwill, the academic team advisor, along with fellow teacher Al Cevoli. "They really did a terrific job. I know they're really psyched to go to Washington. They've been working hard and preparing every day, giving themselves sample questions. They're ready."
Superintendent of Schools Kevin McLellan is proud of the achievements of the Academic Team.
"As always, the kids, under the guidance of Mrs. Kingwill and Mr. Cevoli, did a remarkable job," McLellan said. "But now, they've taken it to another level, the national level. There's a great sense of accomplishment. We're no longer just competing on the Hudson County level, but now, we're going to take on schools from all over the nation."
Barracato, who is headed to the College of New Jersey to major in communications and public relations in the fall, said that the experience he gained last year as a member of the winning Academic Team helped to be ready this time around.
"I think the experience we had made it easier," Barracato said. "We had a handle on the strategy and what questions to go for. I think they were tough questions, but they were tough last year, too. But I think it helped us prepare."
Janampa, who is headed to Boston University to pursue a double major of history and political science with the hope of going to law school someday, wasn't a member of the team last year, so this is a new experience for him.
"Honestly, I didn't even know we had an Academic Team last year," Janampa said. "But I'm glad I joined this year and I'm happy we won. I'm glad we reached our potential. It's been a lot of fun and it's only going to get better."
Pierre likes the competition part.
"It does become very competitive," Pierre said. "But we like that. We want to win and it's a great feeling when it happens."