CUMMING — Students from Forsyth Central High who finished ninth at a national engine building competition in December may have a much better shot at first place this year.
The five-man team from the school’s automotive technology program took first in Georgia’s competition last week, automatically qualifying for the National Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Build Challenge, which will be held in November.
Marlo Miranda, the automotive technology instructor, said the boys took the state title at the Skills USA Engine Builders Challenge, which was held at the Georgia International Convention Center, by rebuilding a Chevrolet small block V8 engine in 19 minutes and 10 seconds
“We won our state championship, which is so cool,” Miranda said. “And not only that, but the boys managed to do such a good job that they are No. 1 in the country right now.”
Through current qualifying events, teams from around the country who placed first through sixth in the December nationals all have times well below Central’s.
“We were carefully monitoring the contest that was going on in Texas also last week because the national champs and first runners-up were going head to head down there,” Miranda said. “They finished at like 21 minutes and 25 minutes, so we’re in really good shape right now.”
The team — seniors Jordan Schaller, Daniel Ryan and John Webb and juniors Blake Hughes and Shahbaz Aslam — will travel this weekend to Hendersonville, Tenn., to compete in the Southeast regional championship, though they have qualified for the national event.
Miranda said the team signed up in case their time at the state event didn’t qualify them for the national competition.
“Now it will just be a good practice run for the nationals for them,” he said, adding that he is “incredibly proud” of his students.
“The next closest competitor [at state] was [Central’s] second team with 20 minutes, so we actually were first and second place at state, so that was really cool too.
“I can’t wait to see how our guys are able to finish at the nationals after they have several more months to practice.”
He added they are deserving of the recognition, which includes several thousand dollars in scholarship money.
He said the five students on the first-place state team each won $2,000 during that event. In addition, they have $9,000 each through the 2013 regional and national events.
They will have a chance to win another $2,000 each at next week’s regional event and potentially $20,000 each at the national event if they place first.
“They work very hard,” Miranda said. “They’ve been here at school at 7 o’clock every morning the entire school year, practicing and working.”