One might assume when four Lehighton Area High School seniors finished second in the banking and financial systems category of the Future Business of Leaders America state competition they could breathe a sigh of relief.

In reality, however, the hard work had just begun.

Ryan Moerder, Matt Eckhart and Mason Smith qualified for the national FBLA conference in Anaheim, California, from June 27-July 3, but had to raise around $1,000 each to make the trip a reality.

“We went to probably 30 or 40 businesses and really pounded the pavement trying to raise the funds,” Eckhart said. “We’re really fortunate to have a lot of great people and businesses who stepped up to help us out.”

Among the top contributors were the Mauch Chunk Trust Company, which pitched in $2,000, and the Lehighton Orioles Nest 183 and Lehighton Education and Athletic Foundation, which each gave the students $1,000.

In April, at the FBLA state competition in Hershey, the trio excelled in a two-part event that landed them the cross-coast opportunity.

According to Eckhart, the team took a 100-question, one-hour collaborative written objective test and placed in the top 10 to advance to the final performance round.

The test was based on concepts and practices, basic terminology, government regulation of financial services, impact of technology on financial services, types and differences between the various types of institutions, ethics, careers in financial services and taxation.

Scoring well on the test led to the second part of the event, a case-study problem.

“We didn’t find out we made the top 10 until an hour before that case-study performance, so it was a bit stressful,” Smith said.

During the case study, team members were sequestered in a room and given a problem or scenario encountered in the banking or financial business community. After 20 minutes to prepare, the team had seven minutes to interact with a panel of judges and present the solution to the case.

“You really have to think on your toes,” Moerder said.

The top four teams in the state qualified for nationals and to add to the drama, officials count down the team names from 10.

“After we didn’t hear our name called at number five, we knew we had qualified, and it is just an incredible feeling,” Eckhart said. “There is really nothing else like it.”

At the national competition, the team will go through much the same process it did at states while competing against the top 200 schools in the country.

The last time Lehighton had a national FBLA attendee was in 2012 when Zach Coleman participated in the Accounting I event.

“Just to be able to represent our small town and have Lehighton recognized as one of the top teams in the state is a great honor,” Smith said. “We’re all friends which makes this experience just as special.”

The team’s advisers, Kevin Kotch and Trevor Miller, didn’t hide their excitement for the opportunity in front of the three men.

“They’re extremely intelligent and they have an outstanding work ethic,” Kotch said. “To see them have success is great for them on an individual basis but also for the school and its FBLA program. We’re very proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish.”