The Gordon Central High School automotive engine build team placed 17th at annual Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas during the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Dual National Championship.

The team, comprised of Hunter McNeese, Levi Evans, Charlie Garcia, Jacob Marshall, Cody McNeese and Luis “Chino” Garcia, disassemble and reassemble a small block Chevrolet engine to manufacturer’s specifications. Penalties add time to the runs.

The students competed in the spring and summer at local competitions and had to qualify with a run of less than 33 minutes to qualify for the national championships in the fall. The Gordon Central team qualified at Coker Tire Cruisin and at Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Motorama last April.

“We had a couple students from our qualifying team in the spring that could not make it back this fall to compete because they are attending UTI in Orlando, using scholarships they won from previous year of this competition,” explained teacher Time Watkins. “We replaced those guys with new alternates just a month ago. They’ve been practicing every morning at 6 a.m. and made huge improvements.

“I could not be prouder of these guys and how well they did in short notice and putting aside the distractions of traveling across the country — first time flying for some — Las Vegas and SEMA, which is the world’s largest car show. They got better with every run and their final run was a perfect build with no penalties in 27 minutes.”

Watkins said the greatest part of the event is that each of the students will be offered more than $5,000 in scholarships to five different technical schools and colleges that have campuses all over the country.

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