Eureka Springs students excel at state SkillsUSA competition

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Eureka Springs High School students swept a full category at the state SkillsUSA competition last week.

Sophomore Cole Rains won first in masonry, with senior Kyle Rains taking second and senior Jesus Tapia winning third. Junior Tyler Crawford won first place in plumbing, and several other students competed in other categories.

Tapia said he was nervous to compete with so many students, saying it was worth it when the winners were announced at the final ceremony.

“It was amazing. That was a really nice experience,” Tapia said. “I feel like a champion.”

High school principal Kathryn Lavender compared the experience to the Olympics. The students were called up one by one, Lavender said, and joined hands on stage.

“To have first, second and third place, and then to see them all hold hands together like they do at the Olympics … it was the first time in the seven years that I’ve been here that we’ve had a sweep of a category,” Lavender said.

Cole Rains said he felt confident he’d place in the category but wasn’t sure how everyone else would do.

“When Jesus got called for third … it was pretty cool,” Rains said.

Senior Kolt Massie, who competed in video production with sophomore Kayden Eckman, said the final ceremony was the best part of the event.

“After a year of hard work and labor, it all comes down to that pinnacle moment, and when you’re able to sweep …it’s a great feeling,” Massie said.

To prepare for the competition, Massie said he worked individually and with Eckman on video production. The two worked together, Massie said, for months leading up to the event. Rains said he worked individually, too, before practicing for the competition.

“Towards the end, we had a guy named Carl come in and he showed us some pointers and helped us a lot,” Rains said.

Crawford said his experience was similar.

“I started a couple of months ago working on my platform and had my cousin come in and help me,” Crawford said.

Massie said he was excited to see his and Eckman’s work culminate at the competition, saying he enjoyed interacting with students from other schools.

“When you walk into the arena, it’s a wow factor. You don’t expect that many people to be there, but once you get going in the event, you have to focus on your own work,” Massie said. “You have to adapt to the situation.”

Lavender said there are two components to the Skills program, including construction technology and film. Eckman said that’s his favorite part of the program.

“I thought it was crazy the different topics. Yes, there’s construction, but there’s also food. There’s police duty and law enforcement,” Eckman said.

Rains said he’s gained experience he never expected through the program.

“It’s pretty cool to have something you can be in and it’ll prepare you for after school … something you can learn that will help you later on in life,” Rains said.

Massie said he’s liked getting to know everyone in the program.

“I moved here two years ago and being able to meet these guys and join the club was like coming to a new family. Everybody in the club is very accepting,” Massie said.

Tapia agreed.

“I think it’s very nice. I really like it. I feel lucky to be in Skills,” Tapia said.

Lavender credited teachers Jason Hill and Adam Louderback for the student’s success, saying the two have mentored the students over the past few years.

“They’ve done a great job of preparing them. Mr. Hill is also a master plumber. He can help in those areas as well,” Lavender said. “Mr. Louderback has a degree in film. He took over the film program, and I’ve seen it grow.”

Lavender said she has attended the Skills competition for the past seven years.

“The people who volunteer their time in those different categories … they know me and they come up to me now and they say, ‘Your students are some of the finest students we’ve had compete,’ ” Lavender said. “It’s not just that they know what they’re doing, but they’re respectful and they’re on time.”

She continued, “It makes me feel good that a little school like Eureka Springs can send a group of young men and women and we’re recognized across the state as being a school with the kind of students we have. That means a lot to me.”

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