Welding star students

Published 10:24 am Friday, April 18, 2014

Jacob Gray practices cutting at the Pruden Center in Suiffolk. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Jacob Gray practices cutting at the Pruden Center in Suiffolk. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

WINDSOR—Two Windsor students recently traveled to Chesapeake to compete in the Skills USA (formerly VICA) state competition for welding, and one came away with a gold medal finish and earned a spot at the nationals this June in Kansas City, Mo.

Jacob Gray and Chase Gore, both seniors at Windsor High School, placed first and second respectively in their categories, Gray in the welding competition, and Gore in the Welding Technical Exam.

“They had us doing sort of a 9-11 Memorial project,” Gray, 17, said. “It was fun, you had to work with four different welding processes.

“It was hot,” Gray said of what he remembered. “I was just always thinking about the end product, and how it was going to turn out. I always want to do my best, or at least the best I can do.”

Reading the blueprints was one of the challenges, as they had to correctly identify the symbols and how and when to incorporate the different welding processes.

“Reading the blueprints was one of the main problems, but not for me,” he said. “I read them pretty well.”

Because of the first place finish, Gray will get to travel to Kansas City.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’ve been practicing, and I’m going for the gold.”

Gore, 18, said the technical exam is an hour to two-hour long test that’s basically on the different welding processes. Gore said when he started taking the test, something wasn’t quite right.

“I had been studying for it, but when I went in, I didn’t know what was on the test,” he said with a laugh. “It was completely different from what I had been studying.”

Despite that, he still got the silver medal, and he said he was happy.

Both Windsor students take their classes at the Pruden Center with Welding Teacher Thomas Shirk. At the end of their sophomore year, they independently decided to get into it.

“Basically, I like working with my hands, and there’s a future in welding — a bright future,” said Gore. “Plus, I enjoy it. I’d much rather be working with my hands than sitting in an office all day.”

Gray said he got into welding when he was younger because both of his grandfathers were welders.

“My dad let me do it one day, and ever since then, I’ve wanted to be a welder,” he said. “I had the opportunity to take it here, and I love working with my hands. And of course, working with fire is cool.”

Shirk said Gray had to cut the parts with a torch and then tack them together, using the info in the blue prints.

“There’s a lot of information in a very small space,” he said. “It can be hard to read. They spent about seven hours working on the project.

“Jacob’s the star. I thought he represented us well, and he’ll do so again in Kansas City. I don’t think we’ve ever had anyone from Virginia place first in the nationals, and I think it’s time for that to change.”

Shirk said that this is the school’s third trip to nationals.

Most recently, the student came in eighth place.

“We’re looking to better that,” he said. “It’s Jacob’s chance to put Virginia, and Isle of Wight and Suffolk on top.”

Principal Daniel Soderholm was thrilled to hear of the win.

“For the second year in a row, Windsor High School students have won a gold and a silver medal in the state welding competition,” said Soderholm. “Jacob and Chase have made the Dukes proud again!”

Both of the students said they’d like to enter the workforce when they graduate.

“There’s a lot of options around here for work,” said Gray, and he added his appreciation for his teacher, Shirk. “I’d like to thank him for being a great teacher. He made me the welder I am today.”

“But you still suck,” added his friend, Gore, with a smile and a laugh.