May 02, 2012 - Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you.
OHS senior Kyle Feeney (left) and junior Paul Strong placed sixth at the state finals of the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition held April 25 in Warren.
Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
Unfortunately, it was definitely a case of the latter for Oxford High School students Kyle Feeney and Paul Strong as they placed sixth last week in the state finals of the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition held in Warren.
"We were doing pretty good, then one of the guys dropped a fuse down the front (of the vehicle)," explained OHS Auto Instructor Dan Balsley. "But it didn't go all the way through. It kind of got stuck.
"He spent about 20 minutes looking for that fuse. He ended up taking off the left wheel well and reaching around inside there. Finally, he went to the line judge to ask about a (replacement) fuse and they told him he could get another one from the parts department."
After that, things got better, but it just wasn't enough.
"As soon as they did that, they seemed to turn the corner," Balsley said. "They picked up the pace and ended up finishing the car. They got a clean car (i.e. no defects), but because of that time loss looking for the fuse, they ended up in sixth place."
Feeney and Strong competed against nine other two-man teams from across Michigan who scored highest on the competition's qualifying exam taken on-line back in February.
The state finals consisted of a hands-on competition which required the teams to diagnose and repair 10 electrical and mechanical defects (i.e. bugs) purposely placed in a 2012 Ford Fusion.
Repairs had to be made with the highest quality workmanship in the lowest total time. The team with the fewest demerits for workmanship and the best combined score for repair time and written exam was declared the winner.
"In judging, their car came up clean, no problems, but they took about 80 minutes to do it in a 90-minute competition," Balsley said. "That's how we ended up where we did."
If the whole fuse problem hadn't occurred, Balsley said, "I really think, after spending some time with them, that they could have pulled off a first or second place finish.
"They were very good. They knew what they were doing. They knew everything that they needed to (in order) to win the competition."
But ultimately "things just weren't going their way."
"It was just one of those days, unfortunately," Balsley said. "Even when they finished up their car and hopped in (to drive) it for judging, all of a sudden, the doors opened back up and they got back out. They couldn't find their keys. The keys were on the table. It was that kind of day. There wasn't anything that we could have done differently. It was just a matter of luck on that day."
In the end, Balsley was extremely proud of Feeney and Strong.
"They were as well-prepared as any team I've ever brought (to the state finals)," he said. "I think their technical ability was very good."
"Working with these guys has been a pleasure," Balsley added. "I've taken a lot of teams to the competition and I don't believe I've ever had such a nice pair of young men to deal with. I enjoyed working with them. It was nice to work with people who are not only smart, but also nice."
Although they finished sixth, Feeney and Strong still walked away with a pretty decent prize. Each received $5,000 in scholarship opportunities from various technical institutions.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.