Lights flashed brightly as a fire engine horn blared through Douglas, forcing cars to pull over and join in celebration over the weekend. Despite not returning to Douglas until well past dark at nearly 11 p.m. June 29, four Douglas High School students got a celebratory return after winning silver at nationals.
The four went to the SkillsUSA National Finals to compete in different welding competitions in Louisville, Kentucky. The welding fabrication team of Dalton Chapman, Kyle Parks and junior Braeden Ellery came in second out of 44 competing high schools.
They won the silver medal in 2019 after coming in first and taking gold last year. Last year’s team featured Chapman, Parks and Trevor Sorg.
“We gave it our all. We were happy with what turned out of it but do we wish we could’ve gotten first? Yeah, everybody does,” Chapman said.
This year, Sorg opted to go on his own and compete in individual advanced welding. Out of the 49 competitors, Sorg came in fourth. While the team competition was larger and took significantly more time, Sorg had only one hour to do the design handed to each welder by the judges.
The team project was to build metal shoe donation boxes in the allotted time. Typically, the competition would take place over 6.5 hours, but due to the difficulty of this year’s objective, the time limit was raised to seven hours.
Even with the extra 30 minutes, only two high school teams were able to complete their projects. Only two of the 22 college teams completed their shoe donation boxes, as well.
“The teams that finished had all worked pretty to hard to make sure they could finish. Every team that did finish, they finished with minutes to spare,” advisor Nate Adels said.
“It was good to have (the additional time); at the same time, if you’re unable to finish this in 6.5 hours, then maybe we need to change a few things with how the project was made.”
The shoe donation boxes are being given to an international organization, Watersteps, that uses shoe drives to raise money and awareness to bring water to Third World countries. In addition to the limited time, the complexity and size of the shoe donation boxes gave the welders problems.
“These aren’t professional welders. They’re high school students and a few college teams,” Adels said.
In the Wyoming State competition, the trio of Sorg, Chapman and Parks finished in first, second and third, respectively. Adels stressed the importance of the dedication from all four of the competitors.
He said that the work they put in, and the amount that the team cared, made it worthwhile for him to sacrifice time he could spend with his family. He said specifically that Sorg would spend over eight hours each day in the welding shop during the summer, outside of one break.
Chapman is currently an apprentice with H&H Electric and will finish his apprenticeship this summer. After that, he will make the decision to either continue with the electrical industry, move forward with a career in welding or go to college.
While the team came home with silver medals, this was the last time at the SkillsUSA National Finals for three of the four. Ellery, who will be a junior next year in school, will be the veteran leader for next year’s SkillsUSA team in welding.
Adels said, “I was really happy how they worked together. They work really hard and go beyond everything I ask them to do.”