ESHS students headed to SkillsUSA National Competition in June
Eureka Springs High School senior Cole Rains is no stranger to competing at the SkillsUSA State Competition, where he placed first in masonry in 2016, 2017 and 2018. Rains continued his streak this year, taking first place once again.
"It's always cool to see your name on the big screen," Rains said. "It's cool to see such a small town get recognition on a state level."
Rains was in good company, with many of his classmates placing at the event. Senior Kayden Eckman won second place in electrical, sophomore Preston Hyatt won second place in plumbing and junior Lyric McKnight won third place in masonry.
"I was a little surprised," McKnight said. "Out of the 10 that competed, I had the least done, but I got third."
Hyatt said he wasn't sure if he'd place but he felt confident Rains would.
"Watching Cole go through it a fourth time is expected and entertaining to watch," Hyatt said.
Eckman didn't receive notification of his placement at the awards ceremony.
"They lost the results for my category. I learned I placed on Saturday," Eckman said. "It's crazy for Eureka Springs. We're just Eureka Springs, Ark. You hear these other schools and it's Pulaski Technical Schools or something like that. It's crazy to know we're competing on the same level as them."
Rains said he finished earlier than everyone else this year, so he had the opportunity to look at what the other competitors were doing.
"It's the first year I could see what other people do for state," Rains said.
This is the first year Hyatt has competed in plumbing; last year, he took second place in masonry.
"I've learned a lot through cutting PVC and soldering copper," Hyatt said. "I went from knowing almost nothing to learning almost everything."
Eckman said he learned from his performance at last year's state competition.
"Last year, we had no idea what we were doing," Eckman said, "but this year we went in and knocked it out of the park."
Junior Dominic Baracosa didn't place, but he said he learned valuable lessons from competing in cabinet making. He had never worked with a certain kind of wood before, saying he split the wood and had to forfeit.
"It was my first year being in Skills," Baracosa said. "It was a good experience, and I'll do better next year."
Baracosa said he took on cabinet making because no one else at Eureka Springs was doing it.
"I want to be the first person to succeed in it," Baracosa said. "I feel like this class allows me to become a more well-rounded person."
McKnight said he's grateful for all the lessons he learns from SkillsUSA adviser Jason Hill.
"It creates a lot of opportunities and teaches you work ethic," McKnight said.
"It's all hands-on," Eckman said. "You get to use your hands and get out of the classroom. You can see what you've done at the end. There's an actual physical representation of something left, and you don't get that from classwork."
Sophomore Dante Kruse, who competed in carpentry, said he loves working with everyone in Hill's class.
"Some people don't like to sit in class and do paperwork the whole time," Kruse said. "You like to get up and build things."
Rains credited the class for shaping his future, saying he plans to attend North Arkansas College in Harrison to become a heavy equipment operator. Rains said he's learned skills in the class that will help him find good-paying jobs right out of high school.
"You don't have to go to college to learn everything," Rains said. "You don't have to go to college to learn about masonry. I've learned job skills like showing up on time, being early and having a work ethic … just always taking pride in your work."
Eckman hopes to continue learning at the U.S. Military Academy but said the class has given him something to fall back on.
"I'm actually looking back onto trades and thinking about doing HVAC, because that's something I love to do," Eckman said. "I've learned so many standards to go on for work."
Hill said he's proud of everyone who competed this year. When he works with his students, Hill said, he takes them under his wing.
"They're not just my students. You almost adopt them because of the time we get to spend with them," Hill said. "The ones that placed did an outstanding job, and even the ones that didn't place worked hard. They still represented our school and our town well."
Rains and Hyatt still have one level of competition left. They will compete at the SkillsUSA National Championship for the fourth consecutive year in June. Last year, Rains won third place at the national championship.
"It's a great experience, but it's not cheap," Hill said. "It takes a lot of money to get us there."
If you're interested in helping out with the trip, drop off a check to Eureka Springs Skills Club at the high school office or call Hill at 479-244-5562.