Thumbs up: As they often do, Carroll County students gave us all reason to be proud this week. Four Carroll County Public Schools students — Laniya Davidson and Hannah Nguyen of Westminster High School, Alexander Schmitt of Manchester Valley High School and Anjan Singh of Liberty High School — were named semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship Program. That academic competition recognizes those who show “exceptional academic ability and potential,” and it comes with scholarship awards. These four Carroll students placed in the top 50,000 out of 1.6 million test-takers. Not bad at all. Also this week, we reported that 18-year-old Charleez Simcik of Taneytown won the Maryland Horse Shows Association Gittings Horsemanship Finals at the Washington International Horse Show regional horse show in October. It was her last opportunity to compete in the junior class, and she made it count, beating out 27 competitors from various states. She’s been working with horses since she was 2 or 3 years old, and it shows. And although no Carroll-based team won, we were nonetheless pleased to learn that the Capture the Flag competition run by Westminster-based Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory (MAGIC) saw its best turnout, by far, this year. The competition tasks students with searching for a virtual “flag” in a cybersecurity exercise described as “ethical hacking.” It’s open to students around the world, and this year participants hailed from places like Tennessee, New Hampshire, Northern Ireland and Estonia. Graham Dodge of MAGIC told us, “This competition really presents them with challenges and puzzles that help them understand some of the techniques that cybersecurity companies would use what they call penetration testing." Cybersecurity is an increasingly essential field the world over, and it’s only going to get more important for bright young students to be at the leading edge of it.