That year, Ethan Elenberg was the captain of the High Tech team that lost the final match.
"Last year, we lost, but it wasn't so bad, because the other High Tech team won," said Elenberg, a senior at the North Bergen-based county high school. "But since we came in second last year, we wanted to win this year. It was my last year and my last chance to win."
This year, High Tech actually had enough students to place three teams in the countywide competition of 18 teams from Hudson County.
"We had so many kids interested that this year, we had a waiting list," said Vincenza Morella, one of the two faculty advisors for the High Tech Academic Bowl team. "We started organizing in September and there were so many kids who wanted to be a part of it. We knew that we were going to have a pretty good team."
The Academic Bowl is a question/answer-based competition, furnished by Questions Unlimited of Columbus, Ohio, which has provided the questions for the Hudson County Academic Bowl since its inception.
It's sort of like watching "Jeopardy!" and answering along, only in a team format. Each match features a series of 48 questions - eight questions in each of six different categories.
"It's always tough competition," said Morella, who is a guidance counselor at the school. "The Academic Bowl combines school smarts, trivia, and common sense. It helps that we have very bright students."
The categories usually include history, geography, literature, science and math, but may also include totally different categories as well.
When Elenberg's High Tech team reached the final round against Secaucus High School in the competition held last week at Weehawken High School, the categories were a tad bizarre.
"They were pretty random," Elenberg said. "We had one category just on Finland. Another was on ballet. As soon as I saw ballet as a category, I said, 'We're in trouble.' "
"We all thought it was too hard," said co-captain Cassie Carajakian, a senior from Hoboken. "But there was also Bodies of Water, Architecture, Days of Exploration, and Money. Those questions were more common. But ballet? Both teams had the look of dread on their faces."
The categories left the High Tech students in a bit of a quandary. Things got worse when they fell behind Secaucus, which knocked out the other High Tech team in the semifinals.
"There was more on the line this time, because Secaucus beat our other team," Elenberg said. "We had to come back and win."
"It was nail-biting," Morella said. "It went right down to the end. It was a lot like watching the Giants play Green Bay the other day. We were behind until the last few questions."
But in the end, the High Tech kids prevailed once again, giving the school its second straight Hudson County Academic Bowl championship.
"It's a great feeling and a great accomplishment," Elenberg said. "It feels good to leave as champions. I just hope that they still have a good team next year."
Elenberg plans to study engineering at an undetermined college in the fall.
"I think this was really good for us, because it can prepare us for the real world," Elenberg said.
Carakajian, who plans to major in both engineering and music in college, said that she did watch "Jeopardy!" to get ready for the competition.
"It does help you get in the mindset to use knowledge and common sense," said Carajakian, whose other Academic Bowl coach Dorothy Gilmartin was a contestant on "Jeopardy!" over the summer. "It's a lot of fun to do. I like answering trivia questions. But this has teamwork involved. It was good because we were always learning something new."
Carajakian was asked if there's the same glory winning Academic Bowl as there is for the sports teams at the school.
"I definitely think there's the same sense of pride," Carajakian said. "It's not the kind of thing where people go and watch, but we all take it seriously and it's very competitive. And it's not a bad thing to win."
Others on the victorious High Tech team included seniors Jeniveve Guevarra of North Bergen and Jonathan Bourdett of Bayonne. The alternates were Tristen Mathis and Anna Blazejowskyi.
"We had a great year," Morella said. "We finished first, third and fifth with our three teams. It was very competitive and it helped that our kids knew the categories."
Well, all except ballet.
The High Tech Academic Bowl team isn't done with their competitions. On Feb. 2, they will appear on News 12 New Jersey's Academic Challenge, when they square off against Parsippany Hills High School. The show will air that evening at 6:30 p.m.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org