WALDO — Waldo County Technical Center was one of 16 vocational schools participating in the statewide SkillsUSA Maine competition at the United Technologies Center in Bangor March 18. An awards ceremony held March 30 saw 11 WCTC students receive medals overall.  Four Waldo County students — three from Mount View High School and one from Mount View Middle School — won gold medals and will advance to the national competition in Atlanta in June.

Bronze medals went to Jayden Hassenbank of Mount View Middle School, competing in CO2 dragster; Sam Valleau of Mount View High School, competing in electrical construction wiring; Jacob Greeley, a homeschooled student in the computer careers program competing in information technology service; Kim Hall of Searsport District High School, competing in state pin design; and Jonas Wagner, another homeschooled student in the computer careers program competing in technical computer applications. Silver medals were earned by Lysa Beckett of Mount View Middle School, competing in CO2 dragster; and Levi Woods of Belfast Area High School, competing in knowledge test electrical construction wiring. Gold medal winners who will travel to Atlanta for further competition are Brady Peter of Mount View Middle School, competing in CO2 dragster; Kricket Thompson of Mount View High School, competing in culinary arts, Miles Littlefield of Mount View High School, competing in extemporaneous speaking; and Eric Braley of Mount View High School, competing in related technical math.

“Although the competition sites were not as crowded as in the past, I believe the competitors and SkillsUSA advisers could feel the excitement and anxiety of the event,” said Dan Schaeffer, Electrical trades instructor and SkillsUSA adviser for WCTC. After the competition was over and students headed back to the school, Schaeffer said, he asked students if they were glad they went out of their personal boundaries to compete, and “there was not a negative thing to be said.”

Mount View junior Kricket Thompson said because the bus arrived late, she was at a disadvantage in the culinary arts competition. Despite the stress of the night, she met every requirement for her meal plans, and was pleasantly surprised to receive her medal. “I didn’t want to look when culinary arts came up, but I did anyway. As each of the three places came up, my name wasn’t there, so I got worried that I didn’t place how I wanted to,” she said. She felt “complete disbelief” when the announcer revealed that she had won.

“I’m super excited to go to Georgia in June, and I hope it turns out to be as good of an experience as (the state competition) was. I’m nervous about it being the national level, but I just have to focus on preparing myself for the skill and pressure of the occasion.”

Miles Littlefield, a senior at Mount View High School in the computer careers program, competed in extemporaneous speaking. He described his experience as “overall, very fun.” He added, “The competition itself was very short and nerve-wracking. It put me in an uncomfortable position that felt like it was pushing me to test my skills.”

Littlefield overcame the jitters and was able to appreciate the moment. “I got to watch the other competitions as well, and it was awesome seeing a large group of people all working for something they really care about. I’m glad I just got to compete, and getting gold was a pleasant surprise, to say the least.”

Senior Eric Braley won gold in related technical math, doing a math test from a classroom, and didn’t attend the UTC competition, but said he was still excited about winning.

A trio of eighth graders in the employability skills preparation class took part in a CO2 dragster competition, with Brady Peters earning a gold medal, Lysa Beckett earning silver and Jayden Hassenbank getting bronze. “It was exciting to do something new,” Hassenbank said, adding that a foam model was designed first, then the team built the CO2 dragster, a model car powered by a carbon dioxide cartridge. Both Hassenbank and Beckett said they could not pin down a favorite part of their experience — it was “all of it.”

“This was a wonderful experience to see the faces of the students, parents and WCTC staff that attended our awards night, Schaeffer said. “I hope those that did not go home with a medal felt that they were part of a team from this school, and all did their best. For some, they can’t wait till next year to give it another go.” He estimated that around 4,000 other students will be joining the four WCTC gold medal winners, and said Tech Center staff are currently planning for the national competition. He also noted that donations are always being accepted to help students pay travel and other expenses associated with the trip.

Cali Warren, a senior at Mount View High School, is an intern for The Republican Journal.