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Continuing a dynasty: Thomson High wins car competition

At the rate he's going, Chan Drake will soon need an extra classroom to house his trophies.

auto_champs.jpg

Edward Phillips (left) and William Shelton check out the engine of a Ford Escape.

And that would be just fine with him.

Mr. Drake -- THS' longtime Automotive Technology teacher -- along with students William Shelton and Edward Phillips recently brought home THS' 14th Student Auto Skills state championship in 17 years after a competition in Atlanta.

Trophies and other awards crowd the walls of his part-classroom part-garage teaching space nestled towards the back of the main school building.

The school's impressive title run humbles Mr. Drake, who mainly credited his students for THS' continued dominance.

"I'm lucky I have (students like Shelton and Phillips). I'm just a country guy...that's been real lucky with a lot of outstanding students in a good school," he said.

The Wilkes County native and former Air Force technician came to THS in 1986 and hasn't looked back since. He said the support from the local community has been one of the reasons his teams continue to enjoy success.

"We have an outstanding relationship with the community. Freedom Ford gives us a new $30,000 automobile to practice on...We couldn't make it without them," he said.

The Student Auto Skills competition is produced by Ford and the Automobile Association of America. Only ten schools are selected to go to the state competition, and there the school's top students take both a written and physical exam to compete for the title.

"They take ten new cars, go under the hood and screw up the car in about ten ways," said Mr. Drake. The team that fixes the car in the shortest amount of time wins.

As a reward, Shelton and Phillips took home $7,000 worth of scholarship money between the two of them. Shelton said it was tough living up to all of the past champions.

"There was definitely more pressure (on us)," he said. "You felt like you had to win it all so you don't let the school down."

Edwards said they knew they had won almost immediately.

"We knew pretty much right after we got the car judged," he said. "We were just really excited."

Both seniors -- who will go to two-year colleges starting later this year to become even more skilled in their field -- gave credit to Mr. Drake.

"He takes a lot of time with his students," said Shelton. "He's good at what he does and likes what he does."

Later this year both students will travel to Detroit to compete in the national competition. THS teams have traditionally done well at the national level as well, finishing in the top ten five times.

For Mr. Drake, the best part is being able to pass on his enthusiasm to his students and watch them succeed at any level.

"I'm real proud of them. I'm very lucky to be here," he said.



Web posted on Thursday, May 6, 2004


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