MAYHEW — Three East Mississippi Community College students competing against their peers from colleges and universities across the nation took home a gold medal and two silver medals in the SkillsUSA Championships in Louisville, Ky.
The national championships took place June 19-23 at the 53rd annual National Leadership and Skills Conference. Ten EMCC students earned a combined eight gold medals in the Mississippi SkillsUSA competition in Jackson earlier this year to earn a shot at the national championships in which only state champions are allowed to compete.
“I am just extremely proud of all of our students who competed,” EMCC Automotive Technology instructor Dale Henry said. “Every one of them worked extremely hard preparing and getting ready for their individual contests.”
Kyle Bluitt of Columbus earned a gold medal and the national championship in the Job Skills Demonstration, Oil Change category. Meridian resident Dillion Miles took second place in Marine Services Technology and Matthew Walsh of Starkville earned second place in Job Skills Demonstration, Disc Brakes.
Bluitt faced 23 competitors, each of whom had to demonstrate an oil change from start to finish while judges scored them on 10 different areas such as skill level and organization.
“I was surprised that I won,” Bluitt said. “My results were different each time I practiced.”
In the Marine Services Technology contest, Miles had to perform hands-on repairs and troubleshooting on two-stroke and four-stroke outboard engines. Each contestant was given 20 minutes at each of seven work stations where they were given an assigned task to complete.
Miles said he was confident going into the contest even though he was the only Automotive Technology student competing in the marine category. All the rest of the competitors were enrolled in Marine Technology programs.
“Everyone was wondering how we got in there,” Miles said. “We got in the same way they did and that is by winning at the state level.”
Henry said this was the first year in the annual contest that EMCC earned a medal in the Marine Services Technology contest.
“This is a tough competition,” Henry said. “We knew going into it we were going to have to be almost perfect to be in the top three. Dillon did really well and scored in the 90 percentile.”
Bluitt, Dillon and Walsh are all enrolled in EMCC’s Automotive Technology program, although Bluitt is transferring to the college’s Business & Marketing Management Technology program. Three more students from EMCC’s Automotive Technology program competed at the nationals. They are Denzel Hendricks of Columbus, Pete Peterson of Ackerman and Callop Whitten of Columbus.
Four students in EMCC’s Welding Technology program also competed at the nationals. They are Kody Gilbert of Eupora, Johnny Lott of Eupora, Timothy Nichols of Columbus and Bo Thomasson of Madison.
Gilbert, Lott and Nichols came in sixth place at the nationals in Team Welding Fabrication. Thomasson placed 10th in Welding Services Technology.
“All of our welding students completed the nationals in the top ten in the nation,” EMCC Welding & Fabrication Technology instructor Gary Gammill said. “Between the secondary and post-secondary schools there were probably more than 80 teams in Welding & Team Fabrication. It is a big competition and very, very competitive.”
According to the SkillsUSA Championships website, EMCC was the only college in Mississippi to earn more than one medal in the national competition and EMCC also accounted for three of the eight medal winners in the state.
This is the second year in a row that a student from EMCC earned a national championship at SkillsUSA. Last year, then EMCC student Nick Ferrell earned a gold medal in the Automotive Services Technology division.
During the annual competition more than 6,000 career and technical education students compete hands-on in 100 different trade, technical and leadership fields.
“You know when you get there the competition is going to be tough,” EMCC Diesel Mechanics instructor Michael Ricks said. “A lot of the competitions are decided by a less than a half of a point.”
Miles said the faculty at EMCC deserve credit for preparing students for the competition.
“The fact that 10 students from here went to the SkillsUSA Championships shows that EMCC is helping us learn what we need to know to and that the teachers are putting in the time and effort for us to place in a national competition,” Miles said.
Instructors aren’t resting on their laurels.
“The night of competition after we left the coliseum and were heading back to Mississippi we began preparing for next year,” Gammill said.
EMCC SkillsUSA automotive
East Mississippi Community College student Kyle Bluitt, at left, won a gold medal at the SkillsUSA Championships. Dillon Miles, second from left, earned a silver medal in the national championships. EMCC Diesel Mechanics instructor Michael Ricks, second from right, and Automotive Technology instructor Dale Henry were among the instructors who had students in the competition.
EMCC SkillsUSA welding
Although they didn’t earn medals in the SkillsUSA Championships, EMCC’s Welding & Fabrication Technology students finished in the top 10 in the nation. Pictured here, from left, are EMCC Welding instructor Cliff Sanders, Bo Thomasson, Timothy Nichols, Johnny Lott, Kody Gilbert and EMCC Welding instructor Gary Gammill.