When the Warren County Career Center welcomed students from all over northwestern Pennsylvania for the SkillsUSA District 10 competition, the home team put its best foot forward.
The Warren contingent, 21 students (including one team of four) in 18 events, won gold in more than half of the categories and managed a medal in all but two.
The local competitors took first place in 11 events, second in four, and third in one.
The WCCC medal-winners were: Gary Troyer, first place, architectural drafting; Dale Follett, first place, auto service technology; Alex Haight, first place, carpentry; Jeremy Miller, third place, collision repair technology; Megan Haight, second place, criminal justice; Aaron Niemeyer, first place, culinary arts; Ryan Perrin, first place, electronics technology; Sara McIntyre, first place, extemporaneous speaking; Shaylynn Briggs, second place, food and beverage; Ben Chase, first place, job interview; Donald Foote, first place, power equipment technology; Steven Kibbey, first place, prepared speech; Philip Dorn, Maryanne Elder, Kyle Kitchel, and Gabrielle Wood, first place, quiz bowl; Logan Black, second place, residential wiring; Ryan Garris, second place, technical computer applications; and Grant Brown, first place, welding.
Only in precision machine technology and related technical math were there no Warren County students on the podium at Warren Area High School.
Alex Haight said he was the last one done in the building construction occupations shop for carpentry. "I knew I was doing it right, but I was doing it a little slower than everyone else," he said. "It took me right down to the last minute. I couldn't have cut that any closer if I'd tried."
He said he glued the last piece of the mock window frame in place a moment before the judges announced that time was up.
"It's kind of intimidating," Haight said. "You know they're good, that's why they're here."
But "it's a good feeling," he said. "You're amongst the best."
Haight came away with gold. "I feel very accomplished," he said.
The Career Center's quiz bowl team was in doubt not long ago. "A couple weeks ago I heard we might cancel - not enough people," Elder, who is in the Career Center's computer information specialists program, said.
She'd been counting on competing for a year. "I saw a picture on the bulletin board and I said I wanted to do quiz bowl."
The team came together and "today, we won. I'm going to sleep with a smile on my face."
"It feels awesome," Wood, a protective services student, said. "We're going to Hershey."
"We plan on studying hard," she said.
Counting two students who automatically advanced and two who earned first place medals in events held Friday at Crawford County Career and Technical Center, a total of 16 Warren County Career Center students will be moving on to the state competition in Hershey in April.
At stake there is more than bragging rights.
"If they win at the state level, they can probably pick any school and get a scholarship," collision repair technology instructor Jim Young said.
The scholarships represent incredible opportunities for some students, but, for most, the district level competition is the end of the road.
Megan Haight didn't qualify for the trip to Hershey, but she is proud of the way she acquitted herself.
When she was called to the podium for a second-place finish, "I was really excited," she said. "It felt good that I represented my school and made them and myself look good. It also reflects on my teachers."
"I had fun," Megan Haight said. "That's what it was all about. You don't have to win to represent your school in a good way."