To hear the graduates tell it, they knew all along what high school was about. In 1988, when their football team finished 1-9, students used the school's long abbreviation in a cheer: "TJHSS&T, that's who we are, that's who we be. We hit them high, we hit them low. Our GPAs are 4.0."
"Go home, geeks!" was the counter chant. But the students, who a decade ago formed the first graduating class at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, were the envy of their peers in Fairfax County.
"I always wondered how they would turn out," said Cathy Graf Crocker, their math teacher and assistant principal.
Well, they're still an overachieving bunch. Just ask them.
"We were a melting pot of talent, and we pushed each other," said Hung Cao, a U.S. Navy diver in Virginia Beach who attended a reunion this weekend for the Jefferson Class of 1989. "It wasn't a question of whether we'd succeed, we all did."
More than half of 133 graduates who responded to a questionnaire are in math and science fields as doctors, engineers or technology executives; 5 percent are lawyers; and 16 percent are graduate students.
About 100 of the graduates attended a Friday night cocktail hour at an Arlington bar to begin their first get-together in 10 years.
"It was like a dot.com convention," Chris Dux said of his high-tech classmates.
One graduate, Matthew Giorgio, of Arlington, joked that he's "the only one with a blue-collar job." He works as a mechanic at an Ashburn garage.
When TJ, as alumni call the regional magnet school, opened in Annandale in the fall of 1985 companies donated $4 million worth of technology equipment to the school's 11 laboratories.
The school drew the cream of the crop, school administrators said of their students from Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties and the cities of Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park. Graduation standards were set high, with each student required to take four years of science and at least two years of technology.
Their graduating class of 350 students set records for the most National Merit semifinalists in a Washington area school and scored third highest in the country in the prestigious Westinghouse Science Talent Search in 1988. Four 1989 graduates won the SuperQuest contest in 1988 that pitted them against 1,475 other teams from across the country in a grueling competition in pursuit of the first $1 million super-computer installed in any high school in the world.
"This was a class of risk-takers," said Pat Gabriel, who has taught math at the school since it opened. "They were introduced to technology 10 years ago--before things like the Internet were so mainstream. They weren't afraid to go out and try anything."
At a picnic yesterday at Burke Lake, yearbook pictures were passed around and graduates talked of science experiments and pep rallies. They exchanged e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers and shared how-to tips on starting Internet companies.
Measuring success among their peers was tough.
Chris Caputo, a 1989 graduate, said he considered himself one of the "underachievers" at Thomas Jefferson when he graduated with a 2.7 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. The top 50 students in the class had a GPA of over 4.0, when advanced placement classes are counted.
Caputo worked for Microsoft for three years before leaving to start his own Internet company, Altopia Corp. in Seattle, which sets up news groups. Next year, he said, he expects it to have more than $1 million in revenues.
"Going to TJ gave me a huge head start in the tech field," Caputo said. "I went to Virginia Tech and was a year ahead of my classmates in most science courses. Being around all those highly competitive people challenged me."
Though they once shared the high-tech high school environment, some have gone on to liberal arts areas or combined skills.
Take Alex Bradley.
After Thomas Jefferson, he got his bachelor's degree in English from the College of William and Mary. In 1995, he studied medieval literature at Catholic University and then took a job with a nonprofit group in Washington designing its Web pages.
On weekends, he performs with a medieval reenacting group. When some members started a company to design interactive stories, they hired Bradley, now 28, to illustrate a medieval fantasy story called, Gryphon Tapestry.
Some in the class said they still are finding their niche.
Dawn Cooley studied computer science in college and worked at three high-tech firms in Northern Virginia before deciding to become a Unitarian Universalist minister. She drives three nights a week from her job in Reston to Washington for classes and hopes to become a minister in the next few years.
"It's been 10 years since we graduated, and I'm still searching for what I'm going to do," said Cooley, 28.
Dux, also 28, married his high school biology lab partner, Amy. He said he considers himself "one of the odd ones out," because he became a biology teacher and basketball coach at Chantilly High School.
"When I told some guy I taught high school biology, he said, 'Don't worry man, something better will come along,' " Dux said. "I told him, 'No. This is it. This is what I do.' "