CATONSVILLE — When he spotted his carpentry teacher carrying a gold medal into Winfield Fire Volunteer Department at 11 p.m. Saturday, Tim A. Legore knew he was a winner.
William McCleary, the teacher, "handed me the first-place medal and said he guessed we would be going to Kentucky,"said Legore, an 18-year-old South Carroll High senior who also volunteers at the fire department.
Legore was among the 67 county students who competed in Vocational Industrial Clubs of America's 19th annual State Conference and Skill Olympics at Catonsville Community College. Gold medalists earn a place in the national competition in Louisville, Ky.
After taking a written exam, Legore and about 25 other carpentry students from across the state put their practical knowledge to the test.
They donnedhard hats and safety glasses, opened their tool boxes and went to work "using their heads and hands," said Dan Lemmon of Baltimore, one of four judges.
"We don't know their names or their schools, they each wear a number," said Al Conaway of Finksburg, who has judged the competition for the past six years.
The judges milled around the students, taking notes, encouraging and answering questions, and rating the students on safety, work attitude, use of tools and job completion. About four hours later, most had completed the job specifications, which included building two sawhorses, cutting out a side for steps, and constructing a roofed square, 4 feet by 4 feet.
Similar scenes with different students, demonstrating other skills, played out in several different rooms of the Baltimore County campus and at threeother sites in the Baltimore area. Winners were announced, to tumultuous cheers from their schoolmates, at the awards assembly later in the day.
"I was not surprised to hear Tim had won," said McCleary, acarpentry teacher at South Carroll who carried the award home for Legore. "He has excellent math skills and is one of the best students Ihave ever had."
Forty students from Carroll County Career and Technology Center also brought home the gold, silver and bronze. Most proudly sported their medals, on red, white or blue ribbons, as they walked through the school halls Monday.
"We had 40 winners out of the 56 we sent to the competition," said Principal Robert Gebhart. "That's greater than great."
Gebhart said the event is a terrific opportunity for the students, who must qualify in their skill at a competition in their schools.
"The camaraderie is great," he said. "Theyget to mingle and share ideas with their peers and other teachers. It also helps familiarize the public with what we do."
Gene Dolly, jobs placement coordinator, said an award often means better job opportunity.
Ben Eyster, who won a gold with his plumbing skills, saidhe knows the experience is helpful in the job market. The senior already works 20 hours a week at the Harry Diamond Labs in Montgomery County and is eyeing a career with the government.
VICA state President Staci Ridgely, a senior at the Westminster school, won a bronze medal in extemporaneous speech.
"VICA is the foundation and stepladder that we can use for our future," she said. "We learn that in the race for quality, there's no finish line."
Ridgely also will attend the national competition in June as head of the state delegation. Gebhart said the VICA Boosters, a group of parents, have begun fund-raising activities to pay for the trip. He estimates the cost at about $900 per person for the week-long competition.
"They ordered another 100 cases of candy bars today for the students to sell," he said. "That will get us started."
* First-place gold medals: Wanda Shaffer, job skill demonstration in cosmetology; Scott Moyle, job skill demonstration in plumbing; Shannon Hensler, job skill demonstration in cosmetology; Heather Fitzgerald, practical nursing; Donna Armacost, post-secondary practical nursing; Jacki Baxter, Juliana Farrell, Mary Ann Swope and Phyllis Showman, health occupations knowledge bowl.
Joe Clark, action skills demonstration; Mike McGuire, electronics technology; Mark Mosley, residential wiring; Sal Miciche, post-secondary residential wiring; Allen Jackson, post-secondaryair conditioning; Valerie Hough, cosmetology; Denise Greely, model for cosmetology; Ben Eyster, plumbing; Mark Maiello, welding; Tim Legore, carpentry.
* Second-place silver medals: Jill DeBerry, Lori Hryczaniuk, Shannon King, M. Calley Lee, Jessica Rogers, Valerie Scellini and Angela Leslie, opening and closing ceremony team; Nikki Hahn, floral design job skill demonstration; Wendy Chapin, culinary arts job skill demonstration.
Ellen Jackson, Carrie Bell, Beth Mullinix, David Taylor and Nancy Fritz, health occupations knowledge bowl team;Scott Shipley, small engine repair; Lori Harvilak, commercial garment; Mike Myers, diesel mechanics; Rick Kramer, auto body repair; Carlee Coburn, child care.
* Third-place bronze medals: Ron Cole, precision machining; Sherri Helmstetter, cake decorating; Staci Ridgely, extemporaneous speech.