MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — Everyone familiar with the academic experience in West Virginia schools covets the golden horseshoe, a rigorous challenge to master the state’s history and culture.

Meet the students at St. Joseph school in Martinsburg: they’ve done something pretty amazing.

Founded in 1883, St. Joseph’s School has prided itself on excellence. Jason Allen used to teach at the school. He is now an associate professor at Shepherd University in neighboring Jefferson County. As an honorary golden horseshoe winner himself as a student, he is proud that six of the ten golden horseshoe winners in all of Berkeley county are 8th graders at St. Joseph’s.

“It shows the hard work,” said Allen. “A lot of these students have been working since 6th grade for this honor and for them to be rewarded or paid off is a big deal.”

It’s quite a distinction for the fastest growing county in the state. Claire Freeman started at St. Joseph’s in kindergarten. She can probably name every West Virginia governor by heart.

“I just think it’s very awesome because my family loves history and I love history so to be involved in something like this is really gratifying,” said Freeman.

The pandemic the past year has presented special challenges.

Ian Saylor, an 8th-grade student, said, “I’ve been virtual all year and its been hard to like learn and study to get the award.”

That’s something to which Ian’s teachers can attest.

Annette Breen, middle school unit leader, said, “They continued to meet with me on Google Meet and play educational games and continued studying their history of West Virginia.”

Ryan Cascio, social studies & religion teacher, added, “It’s so incredibly special for St. Josephs. I really cannot speak highly enough about all of our students and how much they worked for this.”

The golden horseshoe competition tests knowledge of U.S. and world history, political science, anthropology, economics and state and local government.