As they've done for the past three years, the Thomson High School construction team won the region Skills USA competition and will compete at the state level next month. But this year, the competition might be a little stiffer.
The team has won both regional and state competitions the past three years under the direction of teachers Barry and Tony Arrington. This year, Barry Arrington is teaching in Baldwin County, and the Thomson team will be competing against him.
During an interview with The McDuffie Mirror last week, Tony Arrington admitted that he and his team are slightly worried about that aspect of the competition, but not too much. All but two of the students have experience in the contest, and several expressed a strong desire to better their performance and scores from last year.
"I struggled with the electrical wiring two years ago, so I've been working on it and I've got it down pat now," Bu Cowart said. "I want to go back and place better at nationals than I did last year because this is my senior year."
Bu is part of the four-member team that works together in the competition to build a small structure showcasing skills in all four aspects of construction -- masonry, carpentry, plumbing and wiring. The other team members are senior Rhett Hinesley and juniors Brandon Carlton and Evan Hunt.
Thomson High also has two students who placed in individual competitions. Senior Michael Studdard placed second in residential wiring, and junior Brett Jenkins won plumbing.
Like Bu, Brett said his goal is to beat his own performance last year, when he placed first in region and state and 14th in the nation.
"His determination this year to get back to nationals and place there is driving him," Tony said. "He's worked hard."
Evidently the work paid off. At the region competition earlier this month, Brett said, the judge took him around to look at other students' projects and asked Brett what was wrong with them.
"I asked the judge could he give Brett any pointers on what he needs to work on, and he told me Brett can't get any better than he is," Tony said.
The state competition is in Atlanta on March 17-19.