Winning Streak: Southeast Cyber Defense Team Wins Ninth Straight State Championship


For the ninth consecutive year, the Southeast Missouri State University Cyber Defense Team has won the Missouri Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC).

The Southeast Cyber Defense Team competed against 20 other Missouri teams in the Feb. 13 CCDC. During the virtual competition, the team was put into a semi-realistic scenario where they were tasked with defending a network from active threats and attacks while performing information technology tasks.

Southeast’s 12-person team and four alternates will now advance to the Erich J. Spenger Midwest Regional Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition March 19-20 where they will compete against elite institutions from across the Midwest.

Southeast students competing in the Missouri CCDC were Gabe Stier of Sherman, Illinois; Jack Gavin of Lee’s Summit, Missouri; Will Ward of Jackson, Missouri; Ethan Jett of Bloomington, Illinois; Elijah Iverson of Bloomington; Joseph Kossack of Vienna, Illinois; Jennifer Tenholder of Florissant, Missouri; Suzie Luehmann of Granite City, Illinois; Christian Atkins of Ballwin, Missouri; Stephen Gullette of Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Luke Skaggs of Festus, Missouri; and Trevor Banning of Salem, Illinois.

Dr. Mario Alberto Garcia, director of the University’s Cybersecurity Institute and the team’s advisor, said the team has been training three times a week since last year.

Garcia said, “We have an outstanding group of hardworking students. The judges mentioned that every year, the teams are getting better and the competition is more difficult.”

Dr. Chuck McAllister, interim chair of Southeast’s Department of Computer Science, said, “The students have worked extremely hard over the entire academic year to prepare for this competition, and the faculty are proud of their achievement. Recent expansion of the Cyber Range to more than 1,000 processing threads has allowed the department to integrate more virtual labs into the curriculum while also enhancing the team’s ability to practice in the computer environments like those faced in competitions.”

For team co-captains Stier and Gavin, the team’s hard work and practice over the past year has been validated and they are proud to continue the tradition of success.

The team found socially distant ways to train and bond, making use of screen-sharing services and video calls, said Stier. Though initially wary of how this year would go, Stier felt more confident after the team’s performance at the Midwest Invitational in November.

“The 9-time winning streak of the team goes to show the excellence of the cybersecurity program that Southeast has been developing over the years,” he said.

Gavin agreed, “It feels great to keep the standard of excellence established by students from previous years. We are looking forward to representing the University and Missouri in the regional competition.”