Mt. Pleasant students take top honors in automotive skills contest
BY BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
If you need a wrench turned on your vehicle in a couple of years, you might want to contact Michael McKenzie or Jaymie Peterson.
The pair were the top competitors in the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association Automotive Skills Contest Dec. 16 at Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC).
With their first-place showing, the pair now advance to the National Automotive Technology Competition April 17-19 in New York City.
McKenzie and Peterson earned the berth in the skills competition by having among the highest average scores on a written test in October at the DMACC Ankeny Campus. Nearly 300 students, representing 17 Iowa high schools, competed in the written portion of the contest.
The pair, seniors at Mt. Pleasant Community High School, admitted to some anxiousness prior to last Friday’s skills competition.
“On the way up I was kind of nervous, but halfway through the competition, I was feeling good about it,” said McKenzie.
Peterson shared similar sentiments. “I was a little worried because this was my first time. However, I felt we did well in the hands-on competition.”
McKenzie was making his fourth trip to the event, but just second in the hands-on competition, which is open to juniors and seniors in high school. He was honored as the best freshman and sophomore in the state for his scores on the written test.
Eight two-member teams of high school students qualified for the hands-on portion of the competition, based on scores on the written test in October.
In addition to Mt. Pleasant, the other schools competing were Algona High School, DMACC Ankeny Career Academy, Nodaway Valley, West Delaware High School, DMACC Carroll Career Center, Dubuque High School and LeMars High School.
During the hand-on competition, students had to travel through eight stations, diagnosing vehicle problems.
McKenzie and Peterson have plenty of mechanical experience. “My dad has a couple of trucks, and I have worked on them since I was a little kid. I really enjoy it,” stated McKenzie.
Peterson said he has worked on the cars of family and friends for two or three years.
Following the hands-on competition, McKenzie thought the pair did well but not necessarily well enough to win it. Peterson agreed. “This is the first time I’ve done the hands-on competition, so I really didn’t know but felt good about it.”
Following lunch, the team finishes were announced, beginning with eighth place. The excitement built as Mt. Pleasant kept evading the call. “When they announced the fourth-place team and it wasn’t us, we were ecstatic because fourth is the highest Mt. Pleasant has ever finished,” reflected McKenzie.
When the second-place team was announced, leaving just Mt. Pleasant yet to be announced, McKenzie and Peterson knew. “We just started jumping around,” said McKenzie. “It was pretty exciting,” added Peterson.
MPCHS auto tech instructor Jerry Crouch has been taking teams to the competition for 11 years and now has a championship team.
“I was really proud of them,” Crouch said. “I guess we were all kind of stunned. I was just expecting them to do the best they could. I was hoping they would do well, but you never know about the competition. The work stations can be challenging.”
DMACC Ankeny Career Academy was the runner-up and Nodaway Valley captured third place.
For their winning performance, McKenzie and Peterson each received numerous tools and supplies donated by the Iowa Automobile Dealers Association and each received a $1,000 scholarship provided by the DMACC Foundation.
The state winners both plan on studying diesel mechanics next year at DMACC.