SANDPOINT — Two Sandpoint High School seniors took top spots during this year's Skills USA regional welding competition.
Miles Luce and Tanner Kohal placed first and third respectively in the Flux Core Arc Welding category. Luce, who participated in the competition for the second year in row, said he enjoys the competition.
"It’s cool being able to compare yourself to other people in the community and area," Luce said.
Kohal, who participated in his first competition, also said he enjoyed testing his skills against others from the region.
"It was good to put us in a different situation and test us out," he said, adding some of the students were not comfortable with the machines they were using since they had never welded in that particular shop before.
A total of 45 high school students from Kootenai Technical Education Campus, Lakeland High School and Sandpoint High School participated in the regional Skills USA welding competition hosted by North Idaho College Feb. 2.
The annual event takes place at North Idaho College’s welding facility on the Rathdrum prairie.
Participants competed in three categories, including FCAW, Oxy/Fuel Cutting and Shielded Metal Arc Welding.
SHS welding teacher Jake Stark said 15 of "Sandpoint's finest" welding students, including juniors and seniors from the welding II and III classes, competed.
"I thought everyone performed at a high level," Stark said. "Talking to the judges, they said it was one of the toughest competitions to judge because the competition was so good."
SHS has participated in the regional competition for at least 7 or 8 years, he said. Winners of the regional competition are eligible to go to the statewide Skills USA competition April 5-6 in Nampa.
Luce has been in Stark's welding classes all four years of his high school career, taking all the welding classes available and becoming a teacher's assistant this year.
Next year, he said, he plans to work toward his welding career by attending the Diver's Institute of Technology, a commercial diving school in Seattle.
Kohal said he plans to study wildlife biology in Montana, either at Montana State University or University of Montana. But if that doesn't pan out, he said, welding is a good backup plan.
"It is a good-paying skill and you can get into the industry pretty easily," he said. "So it’s a good skill to have to fall back on — and it’s fun."
Mary Malone can be reached by email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.