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Pagosa students spend spring break at state competition

Staff Writer

Spring break was a little different for a bevy of Pagosa Springs students last week, with several successfully competing at the state level for SkillsUSA and Destination ImagiNation.

SUN photo/Shanti Johnson First-place Skills USA winners Kyle LeeWitt, Maison Hessman and Jesse Richardson pose for a photo Wednesday morning. The three students each placed first in their respective categories at the Skills USA state tournament in Denver recently. LeeWitt won first in firefighting, Hessman took first in photography and Richardson won for computer programming.

SUN photo/Shanti Johnson
First-place Skills USA winners Kyle LeeWitt, Maison Hessman and Jesse Richardson pose for a photo Wednesday morning. The three students each placed first in their respective categories at the Skills USA state tournament in Denver recently. LeeWitt won first in firefighting, Hessman took first in photography and Richardson won for computer programming.

At the high school level, students competed in SkillsUSA and Destination ImagiNation, with students performing well in both programs.

The competitions bookended spring break — with SkillsUSA competitors heading to Denver as spring break began, and Pagosa’s Destination Imagination teams heading into competition last weekend.

“I am extremely proud of all of these guys. It is an example of the many talents of our students here at PSHS,” said high school principal Sean O’Donnell.

In SkillsUSA, Kyle LeeWitt took first in firefighting; Jesse Richardson took first in computer programming; Maison Hessman took first in photography; and the CSI team (Cody Couch, Jacob Fortney and McKenna Moore) also took first place for the second year.

Cody Shahan also participated at the state level.

SUN photo/Shanti Johnson Two-thirds of the first-place CSI team, Cody Couch and Jacob Fortney, recently took first place at the state Skills USA tournament for the second year in a row. Couch and Fortney’s team also included McKenna Moore.

SUN photo/Shanti Johnson
Two-thirds of the first-place CSI team, Cody Couch and Jacob Fortney, recently took first place at the state Skills USA tournament for the second year in a row. Couch and Fortney’s team also included McKenna Moore.

It was also the third year the school has brought home first place in computer programming.

According to the SkillsUSA website, the program “is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA helps each student excel.”

In Destination ImagiNation, the high school’s team, the DI Nerds, took first place at the secondary level in the fine arts challenge, “Laugh Art Loud,” and brought home the Da Vinci Award for extreme creativity.

The DI Nerds comprise Blake Irons, Miah Pitcher, Brooke Bowdridge and Addie Thompson.

With the first-place finish, the team will head to the Destination ImagiNation Global Finals at the University of Tennessee in late May.

“The DI Nerds finished high last year, and I am hoping this year that amazing group of kids can bring Pagosa a first place from Globals,” O’Donnell stated.

SUN photo/Shanti Johnson The Pagosa DI Nerds take a moment to smile about their upcoming trip to global competition in Destination Imagination after taking first at state competition recently. From top down are Addie Thompson, Miah Pitcher, Brooke Bowdridge and Blake Irons.

SUN photo/Shanti Johnson
The Pagosa DI Nerds take a moment to smile about their upcoming trip to global competition in Destination Imagination after taking first at state competition recently. From top down are Addie Thompson, Miah Pitcher, Brooke Bowdridge and Blake Irons.

Destination ImagiNation features a variety of challenges, including longterm and instant, that teams can participate in, all of which encourage creative problem solving, innovation and leadership.

But, that isn’t where the success ends.

At the middle level, the Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies placed 11th in their Improv Challenge, “Pandemonium,” and Pagosa’s elementary-level team placed 11th in the structure challenge, “The Tension Builds.”

In the challenge, the team’s structure, made of balsa wood and fishing line and weighing 44 grams, held 435 pounds.

Additionally, according to Sally High, DI district coordinator, Pagosa Springs High School senior Jacob Manzanarez received the Destination ImagiNation Tom Camerlo Scholarship for his years of dedication to and participation in DI.

Isaiah Thompson, a 2013 PSHS graduate and freshman at the University of Denver, was the co-emcee at the awards ceremony and was chosen for “his years of DI extreme awesomeness.”

randi@pagosasun.com

This story was posted on April 17, 2014.