There are not many places that finishing third in a state competition would be disappointing to the contestants. But that was the situation for this year's automotive team from Thomson High School.
The team of Kenneth Watkins and Bob Bentley followed in the THS winning tradition during this year's Student Auto Skills state championship on May 3 in Perry. In the past 20 years, THS has won 14 state titles.
Although, this year's team didn't bring the big trophy home, they received one for their third place finish and one for the highest score on the competition's written exam. Their teacher, Jason Brooks, was proud of his students' efforts.
"We had a little bit of bad luck, but you're not going to win it every year," Mr. Brooks said. "...They did wonderful. They did everything like they were supposed to. It just pretty much came down to one little thing."
Each team of two competitors took a test and was then timed while repairing cars with identical problems. Kenneth said the pressure of trying to work quickly and accurately at the same time was intense.
"I was kind of frustrated," he said. "When I finished my part I was helping Bob, and together we couldn't figure out what was wrong with it."
Bob said, because of the school's winning tradition, he felt privileged to be chosen as Thomson's representative in the competition.
"Me and Kenneth both think it's an honor. I mean, they've won a lot of years here," he said. "I wish we could have."
Both contestants were awarded $16,000 worth of scholarships because of their third place finish. Bob plans on using one of the $4,000 scholarships to Nashville Auto Diesel College. Kenneth plans to attend Georgia Southern and study mechanical engineering.
Only the top 10 schools in the state - based on test scores - are allowed to compete in the hands-on competition. Thomson's entry test scores were also the highest in the state and won the school a power train package from Ford, the event's sponsor.
To train for the competition, Kenneth and Bob practiced on a car loaned to the school from Culpepper Ford. Only the state championship team moves on to the national competition, so Mr. Brooks said at least he will get to enjoy his summer.
"I'm looking on the bright side. I don't have to train them for nationals now," Mr. Brooks said.