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Top student technicians compete for $12 million in scholarships

Wed, 15 Jun 2011

Jimbo Paranada and Marc Paguirigan wore their leis made of lucky Hawaiian ti leaves, but it wasn't quite enough to give the Maui High School students the win in the 62nd-annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills national competition on June 14 at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.

The Hawaiian duo finished second to the two-person team of Matthew Saunders and Drew Torrey from Vale High School in Vale, Ore. The Oregon pair won the title of "America's Best Student Auto Technicians," outscoring at field of state champions from all 50 states.

The competition, which offers nearly $12 million in scholarships to its competitors, gives the nation's best high-school automotive-technology students the opportunity to showcase their automotive problem-solving capabilities by resolving "real world" repair challenges in a timed, head-to-head matchup. A written test is also part of the scoring.

The win for Vale High School was the fifth for the school and for instructor Merle Saunders (no relation to Matthew), who retired at the end of the school year.

The Oregon team earned a "perfect truck" score by flawlessly repairing all 14 "bugs" in a 2011 Ford F-150 pickup truck, without any demerits for poor workmanship. The team completed the work in 58 minutes and six seconds.

The top 10 teams were:

1. Oregon: Matthew Saunders and Drew Torrey, Vale High School, Vale, Ore.; Merle Saunders, instructor

2. Hawaii: Jimbo Paranada and Marc Paguirigan, Maui High School, Kahului, Hawaii; Shannon Rowe, instructor

3. Minnesota: Kyle McDonough and Micah Solem, Faribault High School, Faribault, Minn.; Mark Lessman, instructor

4. Kansas: John Munger and Felix Torres, Newton High School, Newton, Kan.; Robert Ziegler, instructor

5. Arizona: Cody La Pedus and Wayne Siddle, Flowing Wells High School, Tucson, Ariz.; Jerrad McMurrich, instructor

6. Alabama: Christopher Breeden and Patrick Proffitt, Winfield City High School, Winfield, Ala.; Mike Henderson, instructor

7. Wisconsin: Mitchell Sommerfeldt and Ryan Stauske, Grafton High School, Grafton, Wis.; Carl Hader, instructor

8. Louisiana: Casey Higginbotham and Mitchell Odom, Livingston Parish Literacy & Technology Center, Walker, La.; Van Guarino, instructor

9. California: Samuel Castenholz and Michael Mullen, San Luis Obispo High School, San Luis Obispo, Calif.; Jeffrey Lehmkuhl, instructor

10. Michigan: Connor Jennings and Derek Reyst, Saline High School, Saline, Mich.; Timothy Timoszyk, instructor

By Bob Gritzinger