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West Fargo students to compete at building trades national event

Sean Jonas won first place at the Skills USA individual carpentry building trades competition and will be competing at the national level June 25-29 in Louisville, Ky. Submitted photo1 / 2
From left, Dylan Bruner, Mark Bush, Logan Braun and Tanner Laughlin won first place at the Skills USA team skills building trades competition and will be competing at the national level June 25-29 in Louisville, Ky. Submitted photo2 / 2

Six students from West Fargo High School will be competing in the Skills USA building trades national competition on June 25-29 in Louisville, Ky., after winning at the state level.

Laine White, who works with five of those students, said their time will be chalk full of competing, testing, orientations, opening and awards ceremonies. But, students may be able to sneak in a visit to the Louisville Slugger factory.

Although this is at a national level for Skills USA, a volunteer leadership program, White believes his students are more than ready.

"They're going in it very confident," White said. "When they're there they'll let the nerves kick in when they see other teams there. Every state is represented there and they bring the best of their states so they're going against good competition."

The students are going to nationals after taking first place in different categories at the state level. All North Dakota schools with building trades programs gathered in Wahpeton in April in order to get to the big competition this summer.

"I'm very proud of them," White said. "It's a pretty big honor. I was pleasantly surprised."

Sean Jones took first for individual carpentry after winning in the event last year as well. White said students are given a set of blueprints at the event with no idea what they'll be working on beforehand. They then get roughly eight hours to build and are then judged on workmanship, safety, speed and overall quality of work.

"The students that stand out and do really good quality work are the ones who go to the competition," White said. "He just always takes pride in his work and always does the best that he can. He's just very reliable when you send him to a task. You know he's going to do it and do it right."

Dylan Bruner, Mark Bush, Logan Braun and Tanner Laughlin also won in the team works competition in the first year they competed together. At state, they also got a set of plans and eight hours to build something. But instead of just carpentry, the project also incorporates masonry, electrical and plumbing. They're judged on the same categories as the individual events. At nationals, where the individuals will have eight hours to build something else, the team works group gets two days to build.

"They're all friends coming into the competition," White said. "They all work really well together. As far as the craftsmanship part of it, they all take pride in their work. They really strive to do the best job they can. If one gets stumped, all the others are there to help and work through problems that arise in the competitions."

To help them prepare, White gave the students mock blueprints to work on. They spent four hours a week for 3-4 months to get ready. White said he brought in experts in their fields to teach the students skills as well. Jason Ehlert, the president of the Building Trades Union, taught the students masonry and Brian Laughlin from Laughlin Electric taught electric wiring.

"They did spend a lot of time working on it," White said. "To win and do such a great job, they were really surprised when they took first. They were surprised and proud I'm sure."

Evan Poppenhagen will also represent a West Fargo recreational engines class at nationals after taking first at state in motorcycle repair. White said he's hopeful for nationals and feels confident in their abilities to work through any problem that could arise.

"There's a lot of things you have to work through," White said. "These guys are good at staying cool and working through things that would come up. I think they'll do well."

Colton Pool

Pool is a reporter for The West Fargo Pioneer covering city sports and community news. He was the sports editor for The Dickinson Press covering Dickinson State athletics, high school athletics and Southwest Speedway. He graduated from North Dakota State with a degree in journalism and a minor in English. You can reach him by phone at 701-451-5715 or tweet him @CPoolReporter. 

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