CNCC cybersecurity students achieve high national rankings |

CNCC cybersecurity students achieve high national rankings

The members of the Colorado Northwestern Community College cybersecurity program engage in competition through the National Cyber League. All three CNCC teams ranked within the top 10 percent of the event.
Courtesy Photo

With elements of everyday life becoming increasingly digitized, the world is in need of people ready to uphold online security.

And, students at Colorado Northwestern Community College are up to the challenge.

CNCC’s cybersecurity program recently announced high placements and rankings in the National Cyber League’s spring season.

NCL is an organization dedicated to enhancing cybersecurity education and training for college and high school programs through competitions testing their skills in the domain.

Competitors take on games that analyze their skills in the cybersecurity workforce, such as forensics, cryptography, forensics, and password cracking, among others.

CNCC had a dozen students across three teams during the individual game — March 31 to April 2 — and team games — April 14-16.

Among more than 6,000 individuals, CNCC’s Draken Blackwing, Josh Day and Jesse Aitken each placed in the top 10%, with Draken ranked highest at 406. Draken credited his performance to lots of prep work.

“Setting aside time to practice and doing research was essential in getting the score that I got in NCL individuals and helped me to be better prepared for whatever was presented to me in the competition,” he said.

Draken Blackwing and Day each took a diamond ranking, with Aitken and Christopher Herod ranked platinum.

“The individual event was exciting and frustrating at the same time,” Aitken said. “I spent roughly 30 hours at the college competing in the three-day event. The hardest part about the individual games was not being able to talk to any of my classmates or coach about anything to do with the competition.”

Raiden Blackwing, Colby Stene, James Gore and Neo Anderson achieved gold; Maia Crimew and Roland Strobel silver; and Chelsie Dedrickson and Kris Gunderson bronze.

Among teams, each of the three CNCC groups ranked platinum, with the team Gone Phishing —Gwen Doizaki, Strobel, Dedrickson and Gunderson — in the top 10% of more than 3,500 teams. Doizaki served as the team captain.

“Getting to lead one of our school’s three teams was an incredibly instructive and rewarding experience that will inform not only my leadership style, but ironically my individual work style going forward,” she said. “Coordination and communication were key, and we could only be as strong as our weakest link.”

Placing among the top 5% were The Other Guys — consisting of Raiden Blackwing, Stene, Gore and Anderson — and the team of Draken Blackwing, Day, Aitken and Herod making up Knights of the 72 6F 75 6E 64 — which translates to “round” in coding language.

The latter group was ranked 157th.

“The night before the team games I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve. My nerves and excitement were high as my mind raced to try to predict what I was going to have to do,” Day said.

Day said the group events were particularly exhausting.

“This competition tests not only what you know but also how fast you can think on your feet. Many challenges require you to think outside the box and you can’t afford to spend a long time finding the niche bit of information,” he said. “Overall, I’m proud of how everyone did and even with myself. Having less than a year’s experience, I wouldn’t have expected to make it to the top 10% in both the team and individual games.”

Many of the CNCC students are looking toward the future, namely the near future with this fall’s season of National Cyber League.

“I look forward to the next competition to find out how much I have improved and to learning even more,” Draken Blackwing said. “This experience has been a very important and rewarding experience for me and has grown the passion I have for cybersecurity substantially.”

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