Dayton claims bronze at nationals

VALE – A Vale High School student brought home a bronze medal from a national automotive technology competition in Georgia.

Senior Carson Dayton took third overall in automotive service technology at the SkillsUSA national championship in Atlanta on Friday, June 23. According to Karen Kitzel, associate director of SkillsUSA, Dayton was one of two Oregon students to bring home a medal.

Drew Barnes, Vale High School automotive instructor, said Dayton’s bronze medal is the highest any student from Vale has won at the national championships.

According to Barnes, the Vale automotive team has been competing in the SkillsUSA competitions since 2015.

Barnes said two other students competed at the national championship. Barnes’ son Dax Barnes finished ninth overall in motorcycle service technology, and TJ Trowell, a first-year student, placed eleventh in power equipment technology.

Barnes said Dayton competed in a “tough contest” that was an all-day event. The senior worked on every aspect of an automobile in 20-minute increments at more than 10 stations, from transmissions to electrical diagnostics to steering and suspension. He worked in front of a panel of judges and roughly 15,000 people at a packed arena.

Dayton in a subsequent interview said that ahead of the contest he felt an “adrenaline rush,” but at the same time he was anxious and nervous.

“It’s nationals,” he said. “You just want to do good, but a lot of this stuff you’ve never seen or had a chance to put your hands on before.”

Dayton, who finished in fourth place in diesel technology at the national championship last year, said it took him a second to process that he had won the bronze medal.

He said it “felt good” to walk up to the podium and get the medal.

Dayton’s success, Barnes said, has allowed him to lock up scholarships. Also, he said, companies donate tools to the top-performing students, saving them thousands of dollars.

According to Dayton, his bronze medal earned him an additional $24,000, and Harbor Freight Tools handed him $500 in cash.

Barnes said the recognition that Vale High School’s automotive technology program gets when students finish at, or near the top of state and national competitions is excellent. For him, as an instructor, it’s gratifying to see students get the experience that will prepare them for a career.

“The competitions gives the students an opportunity to see what’s outside of Vale,” he said,

News tip? Contact reporter Steven Mitchell at [email protected].  

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