EMCC student takes gold in national SkillsUSA contest

EMCC automotive technology alumnus Matt Walsh received a gold medal at SkillsUSA's 54th Annual National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky in June. Walsh received a silver medal in last year's competition. (Submitted photo)

Staff Writer

The East Mississippi Community College automotive technology program continues to be successful in competition, bringing home a gold medal and other accolades from the 54th Annual National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

Alumnus Matt Walsh took the gold in the disc brakes category in the job skills demonstration competition after taking home a silver medal the year prior. Walsh is currently employed at Parrish Automotive and Towing in Starkville, where he started while still enrolled at EMCC. Walsh graduated in May with an associate of applied science in automotive technology.

Automotive technology instructor Dale Henry said Walsh’s gold was a long time coming.

“Last year, he competed and finished second place, and the first thing that happened at the awards ceremony whenever they called him out for second place, the first thing he did was he sought me out,” Henry said. “He came over, and before he even went to the stage he said ‘next year, I’m going to win gold.’”

Walsh described the sensation of winning gold in the competition, which was held the last week of June. Walsh had to demonstrate a brake job to the judges while being timed.

“This was my second time doing it, so I’d kind of been there before and knew what to do,” Walsh said. “I went in knowing what I had to do and just got it done.”

Despite keeping a cool head during the competition, with judges closely observing his work. Walsh said he couldn’t help but celebrate after his medal was announced.

“I jumped up in joy, man,” Walsh said. “We were in a stadium, and I jumped out of my seat and about fell off of the second story.”

Henry said in 11 years of sending students to the SkillsUSA completion, only one year did his student not win medals. In total, more than 6,000 students from across the country competed in hands-on competitions across more than 100 disciplines.

Henry said making sure he taught skills at the right times was important to students’ success both in competition and in the field.

“It’s all about the timing,” Henry said. “That goes for all of the training, too. It’s all about the timing and giving it your best at just the right time. It does no good to be at your best the week before you go to the contest, and it does no good to be at your best the day after the contest, so it’s all about the timing, and it’s just one of those things that you have to know going in.”

Kyle Bluitt took second place in the oil change category. Bluitt also graduated in May. Walsh and Bluitt were among five EMCC automotive technology students who were successful in the state competition in May, along with Cameron Hitt, Dillon Miles and Gray Watson.

Despite enjoying his work as an automotive technician, Walsh said he is considering furthering his education with a business degree from Mississippi State University.

“I plan on opening my own business eventually,” Walsh said.

SkillsUSA is an organization for students in career and technical programs at middle school, high school and college level.