ONEONTA _ A six-member team from the Oneonta Job Corps Academy returned to the Homer Folks campus Thursday afternoon as district champions of the Academic Olympics.
The OCJA team captured first place in the competition held Wednesday at the South Bronx Job Corps Center.
Upon their return to Oneonta, the winners were met by banners and congratulations from staff and classmates.
"I wasn't expecting all that," said Jermaine Thigpen, 21, of Schenectady, as he and his teammates celebrated their victory.
The team competed against six other Job Corps centers in five categories: language arts, spelling, mathematics, social studies and science. The students ended the competition with 79 points compared with runner-up Potomac Job Corps' 77 points.
The team missed just five questions out of 40, said coach Holly Martin.
"I couldn't be any prouder," she said.
The team also took top individual honors in four of the five categories, she said.
"Now we will be going to Ocean City, Md., Oct. 5 through the 7th for the regional competition," Martin said.
Team captain Donald Brewer, 23, of Hopewell Junction, said the team was confident and well-prepared.
"We didn't do this just for Job Corps, we did this for all of Oneonta," Brewer said.
Martin said this is the second time in three years a team from OJCA finished first at the district competition.
Several members of the team said they immediately called their families to share the news after they won.
"They can't wait to see me," Thigpen said. "That was the first thing I did."
The team members said their fellow students were rooting for them, but said they especially wanted to thank Martin.
"She kept us looking sharp," said Zahur Fenty, 18, of the U.S. Virgin Islands. "She overprepared us."
The team readied for months leading up to the completion and ramped up its preparations last week. The members left Oneonta on Tuesday, arriving in New York City that night for a social event involving all of the teams.
"They had a very good time," Martin said.
Each team member specialized in one of the fields, while Robert Cheek, 22, of Trenton, N.J., served as the prime alternate, there to try and answer the questions his teammates had trouble with, except for spelling.
"I honestly expected to do nothing," Cheek said, noting his teammates had prepared very well. "But they did actually need my help."
The day after the competition, the team had a chance to get out and have some fun before they boarded a bus back to Oneonta, Martin said.
"I think all of us enjoyed the smell of that fresh city air," Brewer said.
The other members of the team include Kristin Heyder, 23, of Long Island, and Charles Brown, 16, of Camden, N.J.
The OJCA students competed against teams from the South Bronx, Iroquois, Cassadaga, Potomac, Delaware Valley and Glenmont Job Corps centers.
Job Corps is an education and vocational training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor for people ages 16 to 24.