Maintenance

Vale team brings home honors from automotive skills meet

William Tolman, Dax Barnes, and Ephraim Jensen all placed highly in the Skills USA National Leadership and Skills Conference.

William Tolman, a rising senior at Vale High School, placed first in power equipment technology at the Skills USA National Leadership and Skills Conference. (Submitted photo)

VALE – Last year, when the Skills USA National Leadership and Skills Conference was canceled due to Covid, William Tolman said he was “bummed.”

Still, after a virtual competition at the state level, it was “not really a shock” when the Vale High School student heard he wouldn’t be allowed to compete at the national level. 

This year, Tolman, who will be a senior, had a chance to finish what he started.

For the second year in a row, he won first place in power equipment technology at the state championship, tacking on another first-place win in automotive maintenance and light repair.

He won the national title then in power equipment technology, where he had to demonstrate his ability to fix different kinds of engines.

“There’s quite a bit of stress involved in it, but at the same time it was really cool to be able to see everything and have the opportunity to compete in (the national competition),” Tolman said. “It feels really good to win, honestly. I was not expecting it, but it’s really cool.”  

Tolman wasn’t the only Vale student to place in the national competition. Dax Barnes won fourth place in motorcycle service technology, and Ephraim Jensen finished 10th in automotive maintenance and light repair. 

Drew Barnes, Vale High School automotive technology teacher, said that the technical logistics of the competition had gone “a lot better than we expected.”

“We got to practice towards the end (of the school year) moving into summer,” said Barnes. “Before that, they were participating online with me and utilizing some of our online tools and resources. We kind of corresponded, working back and forth in a virtual setting. But many of the kids really don’t have the ability to work on (cars) at home. We got them in the shop the last quarter and worked with some of them.”

For Tolman, being in the shop was key to preparing for the contest. 

“Mainly it was a lot of practice and a lot of time spent studying on the subject and just working hands on,” he said. 

The final national contest featured a six-hour work day, with Tolman submitting video files and streaming live at different points for the judges. His tasks included repairing a four-stroke cylinder engine, repairing a weed trimmer engine, and wiring a circuit board. 

“I really enjoyed it,” Tolman said. 

Barnes explained that the Skills USA program, which according to its website helps develop “world-class workers, leaders and responsible American citizens,” was an “extra” for students in Vale’s automotive training program who want to earn college scholarships or tools. Vale students have competed at the national level since 2015. 

For Tolman, the award is something to keep in his back pocket. 

“Auto was never really what I intended to do, it was just something that I liked to do,” he said, explaining that he hopes to pursue an environmental science degree. “It’s good to know I have something to fall back on, but I do plan to get a four-year college degree and then go from there.”

News tip? Contact reporter Liliana Frankel at [email protected] or 267-981-5577.  

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