Eight Thomson High School students represented McDuffie County at the SkillsUSA Regional Contest.
For the third consecutive year, senior Brett Jenkins placed first in the plumbing category. Senior Devan Anderson placed third in masonry.
Also placing first was Teamworks, a four-man-plus-alternate team made up of seniors Brandon Carlton and Evan Hunt, freshmen Levi Reed and Justin Boutwell and sophomore Caleb Washington.
The regional contest, which was held at Oconee Fall Line Technical College, consisted of hands-on projects for Jenkins and Anderson and a written test for the Teamworks members.
They began studying before Christmas.
“I’m really proud of them,” said instructor Tony Arrington. “They’re committed to it.”
SkillsUSA is a nonprofit organization that works through partnerships between employers and educators to develop a work force skilled in a variety of vocational trades, including construction, architecture, cosmetology, communication and transportation.
Students compete in regional and national competitions in many of those categories.
The crew has already moved on to preparations for the national competition in March. It will be similar for Jenkins and Anderson, but the Teamworks team will have to build a structure from the ground up in two days. They will prepare by building past projects like an outdoor shower, a potting shed or a greenhouse, and will build as many structures as they have time to before the competition.
Last year, Jenkins won fourth place at the national competition.
“We have big hopes this year for him to finally win it, because last year the thing that he messed up on was very minute,” Arrington said.
He said the students will compete against students from high schools and technical colleges from all over the country, including students who work in those professions for a living.
“It’s very tough,” Arrington said.
“That shows how well these students actually do perform.”
Students from Thomson have won several state competitions in the past.
Seven signed hard hats hang on the wall outside Arrington’s office to commemorate those wins. This year’s competitors want rings instead.
“That shows you the kind of pride they have in what they do, that they feel equally (as proud as) football, golf, tennis – that this is where they excel and they’re proud of it,” Arrington said.
Carlton added, “Part of it is because we’re going to have (the rings for) the rest of our lives, and this is what we’re going to be doing for the rest of our lives.”