Golden West FFA builds a championship team

High school’s agriculture mechanics team wins state title in modified competition split between online and hands-on projects

VISALIA – Online education was difficult for most students but was especially hard on those studying technical fields where learning is defined by hands-on work. Despite the obstacles, students enrolled in Golden West High School’s agriculture mechanics pathway were able to virtually compete and actually win a state championship in their field.

Ag Department head Emmett Schultz said the ag mechanics team competed in six contest areas including written, welding, problem solving, electrical wiring, plumbing and electrical motors. A portion of the competition involved projects that had to be mailed in and the other was completed online in a state competition which included 19 teams and 76 competitors.

“We had to wait three works for the results,” Schultz said.

Schultz introduced the team and their accomplishments in the competition to the Visalia Unified School District board at its Aug. 24 meeting.

“Congratulations to Golden West FFA on their state championships,” trustee Joy Naylor said. “It’s really difficult to do, especially in pandemic.”

The four-person team was comprised of students in their second, third or fourth year with the team. The most experienced member of the team was Alejandro De Alva, now in his third year on the team. He finished fourth in electrical wiring, fifth in electric motors and 15th overall. Wyatt Benson and Sam Pratt have both been a part of the team for two years. Benson, who is now enrolled at Texas Tech, was the star of the team finishing first in the state overall as an individual. He placed second overall in problem solving, third in electrical wiring, plumbing and electrical motors and fourth overall I the written test.

Pratt, currently attending Oklahoma State University, also grabbed a first-place finish in electrical wiring and electric motors. He also finished second in the written portion. New to the team this year was Ernie Murphy. Despite being only joining the team in the spring, Schultz said Murphy was familiar with all areas of the contest and finished 10th overall as an individual.

“This is a great group of kids and it’s good to still be working with them,” Schultz said.

Schultz said the team is still practicing via Zoom, with two members of the team now in college, in the hopes of being able to compete in person at the FFA National Convention in Indianapolis next month.

“Congratulations,” board president Juan Guerrero said. “You make us very proud.”

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