MCC Students shine at SkillsUSA statewide tournament


Thousands of students from across Nebraska gathered in Grand Island earlier this month to show off their talents and put their trades to the test.

The annual SkillsUSA Nebraska Leadership and Skills Conference was held at the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island April 12-14. The statewide competition gives students the chance to demonstrate their skills in various trades and other categories.

Metropolitan Community College had more than 100 students entered in a variety of categories at SkillsUSA, including automotive restoration, cabinetmaking, team construction and more. Many students that study at the College competed in what they major in at MCC.

“You pick a competition based on what you study,” said Zach Pechacek, MCC’s SkillsUSA coordinator.

The competitions are designed to show off a student’s full knowledge of a particular trade or skill. Beyond that, it is a way to show the judges that students not only can perform a task well, but can explain it to others and be confident.

“It prepares them by testing their knowledge,” Pechacek said. “It shows how you work under pressure with people watching you and you skills closely. There’s also a communication piece. In these fields, they’re looking for good communicators. A lot of these students are introverts so they need to know not only how to do a job, but explain what they’re doing.”

While the competition started on Thursday, students began preparing long before. Pechacek said students often do test runs in their various areas of study leading up to SkillsUSA.

“A lot of our students were practicing two or three times a week,” he said. “We bring in industry partners to help them prepare.”

Heath Cloyd, a Welding student at MCC, competed in a team competition. He and his team made sure to go over who would do best in certain areas to perform well in the competition.

“We studied all the measurements and talked over who is good at what,” Cloyd said. “We got this.”

Competitions wrapped up on Friday afternoon. MCC students were feeling confident in their performances.

Kelsey Hutchinson, Alex Mutzke and Nora Cobb, an all-girl welding team from MCC, said they felt great after welding a metal table for their competition.

“We think we killed it,” Cobb said. “It was all about communication.”

Leading up to it, the girls were a little nervous. But once the time on their competition started, they all relaxed.

“It was a little stressful, but once you get started, it’s all muscle memory,” Cobb said. “We have created a great bond and know when we can be honest, It’s about knowing when you can lean on your teammate’s strengths.”

Hutchinson, Matzke and Cobb thought being an all-girl team might have given them an advantage.

“Women have that eye for detail,” Hutchinson said. “It’s why more girls should be in this field.”

Beyond mastering their trade, students learn more at SkillsUSA, said Aubrey Baxter, trades coordinator at MCC.

“It helps with leadership skills,” she said. “The teamwork part is like being in the real working world. It also gives them the opportunity to compete in something they love. There are a lot of employers here and it could lead to a career.”

Cloyd said the state competition showed him how working after college will be.

“It shows me how professional the workforce is,” Cloyd said. “You can’t act like a child. You have to be on time and ready to go. It’s fun. I would definitely like to come back.”

Both college and dual-enrollment student winners of the SkillsUSA Nebraska Leadership and Skills Conference are listed below.

Audio/Radio Production
Alexandra Keen, silver
Pat Caveye, silver

Automotive Refinishing
Brian Hedglin, silver 
Jaylen Fairchild, bronze

Bret Gleason, silver

Collision Repair
Kyle Ray, gold
Jacob Kaczmarek, silver
Cheyenne Purchase, gold
Paul Baltes, silver
Julio Roman. bronze

Criminal Justice
Jeremiah Gage, gold

Digital Cinema Production
Kara Schmoeller, gold
Jen Harris, gold
Nick Madison, silver
Nathan Blizzard, silver
David Festner, bronze
Jacob Leach, bronze

Electrical Construction Wiring
Jacob Riha, gold

Colton Mallory, bronze

Tyler Kudalacek, gold
Nikolay Mimitrov, bronze

Joey Nyffeler, gold
Robert Simon, gold

Motorcycle Service
Dan Andersen, silver

Erin Colson, gold
Stacey Kleffman, silver
Marc Emanuel, bronze

Chandler Cannon, gold
Christian Weeks, silver
Joshua Fowler, gold

Precision Machine
Max Goldberg, silver

Television Video Production
Ulysses Orozco, gold
Jamison Denton-Carter, gold
Carlos Antonio Villegas, silver
Cris Robinson, silver

Leah Reichwaldt, gold
Mitchell Pavel, gold

Welding Fab
Daniel Levy, gold
Austin Points, gold
Andrew Lempke, gold
Laura Mutzke, silver
Nora Cobb, silver
Kelsey Hutchinson, silver