Georgia Northwestern’s Fincher Wins College’s 1st National Gold, 2 More Medal In Louisville

Thursday, July 13, 2017 - by Don Foley, GNTC
Cedartown, Georgia’s Ryan Fincher becomes Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s first-ever national champion in the 2017 SkillsUSA competition in Louisville, Kentucky. Fincher, shown third from the left, poses alongside his other Top-10 finishers on the medal stage in Louisville, Kentucky. Fincher is a three-time Georgia SkillsUSA champion, twice on the high school level and once on the collegiate level.
Cedartown, Georgia’s Ryan Fincher becomes Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s first-ever national champion in the 2017 SkillsUSA competition in Louisville, Kentucky. Fincher, shown third from the left, poses alongside his other Top-10 finishers on the medal stage in Louisville, Kentucky. Fincher is a three-time Georgia SkillsUSA champion, twice on the high school level and once on the collegiate level.

After the dust settled on a competition floor large enough to house more than 15 football fields, the students of Georgia Northwestern Technical College would find themselves among the best in the nation at the 2017 Nationals SkillsUSA Competition. More than 6,000 students qualified in their home states to compete at the national competition this summer in Louisville, Kentucky. But when the competitions would close on more than 100 professional skills categories, it would be the Bobcats standing near the top of the next generation workforce.

Leading the way and standing tall atop the medal platform for Georgia Northwestern Nationals SkillsUSA Team was Cedartown, Georgia’s Ryan Fincher. The 2017 Georgia SkillsUSA Welding Champion became GNTC’s first-ever national champion. Fincher, a product of GNTC’s Welding Technology program, is no stranger to the national stage, though. In his junior and senior year at Cedartown High School, Fincher was a two-time state champion in welding at the Georgia SkillsUSA Competition in Atlanta, Georgia.

Also, placing nationally for GNTC were Bobcat teams in the Chapter Display and Career Pathways categories. Taking home the bronze in Chapter Display was the GNTC team of Brandy LeVan (Rock Spring, Georgia), Melisa Fajardo (Dalton, Georgia), and Kate Hendricks (Rock Spring, Georgia.) Another Bobcat crew also grabbing a third place finish at nationals was the college’s Career Pathways team. Beck Maxwell (Euharlee, Georgia), Melvin Mitchell (Cartersville, Georgia), and Dusty Powell (Aragon, Georgia) made up the bronze medal entry from GNTC.

GNTC’s total medal count (7) from the national competition was among the tops from qualifiers in the Peach State. The college, along with other teams from the Technical College System of Georgia, qualified 111 contestants for slots in Louisville. In all, Georgia Technical College entries brought home a total of 53 medals: 24 gold, 12 silver, and 17 bronze. The lofty medal count made Georgia the winningest state in this year’s skills competition.

As for other great performances from the Bobcat contingency, enter Ashley Davenport (Rome, Georgia). Davenport would finish fifth in the nation in the Cosmetology category. Only 37 points out of a possible 1,000 points separated Davenport (952.67) from the top spot. 
Davenport finished second at the state level of SkillsUSA in March, therefore, she did not originally qualify for a trip to the national competition. However, just one week before the competition, Davenport was told that the state’s winner was unable to take part in nationals and she would be taking the spot.

Also making his presence known was Branton Bailey (Resaca, Georgia). Bailey would take home a top-10 finish claiming eighth place in the nation in Cabinetmaking. Only 67 points out of a possible 1,000 points separated Bailey (921.5) from the title. Both Bailey and Davenport, along with nine others from Georgia Northwestern, earned enough points to qualify for gold medal consideration. Those entrants receive a “Skills Points Certificate” to recognize their high-level of performance. Among those entrants from GNTC were top finishers Fincher, LeVan, Fajardo, and Hendricks; as well as Electrical Construction Wiring entry Eric Vargas (Rome, Georgia); and TeamWorks entry competitors Barry Arrington (Calhoun, Georgia), Bo Dooley (Resaca, Georgia), Shawn Clark (Calhoun, Georgia), and Noah Wilson (Fairmount, Georgia). This is only the college’s second time competing in the TeamWorks category. Last year, the team took home the bronze for the third best performance in the nation in the construction-based classification. Arrington and Dooley made repeat appearances from the 2016 squad.

Additionally, Georgia Northwestern Technical College received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for Families and Groups. The President’s Volunteer Service Award is issued by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation on behalf of the President of the United States. It recognizes the best in American spirit and encourages all Americans to improve their communities through volunteer service and civic participation. In March, the college chapter was awarded Georgia SkillsUSA’s highest honor, the Chapter of Distinction award. GNTC SkillsUSA Advisor Missy McClain, along with the instructors of the college, helps organize the events and train the contestants for each year’s team beginning every winter.

Winners in each category of the competition take home prize packages that complement their chosen vocation. Fincher took home thousands of dollars in tools and equipment for his first place finish in Louisville. “It’s just a great opportunity for this next generation of skilled worker,” said Scott Carter, Georgia Northwestern Technical College Electrical Systems Technology Instructor. “Our college really performed excellent. But it’s about more than the competition itself. One of our students heard that industry recruiters at this event will sometimes make job offers to specific contestants they would like to hire.  Before the event, the student said he was moving to Bakersfield, California this fall and didn’t want to take any new jobs right now. Then, one company rep approached him during the competition to offer a job. He told the rep he was moving to California soon. The rep asked him if he would be moving anywhere near Bakersfield because that’s where I was going to offer you a job!”

Each year, the National SkillsUSA Competition takes place during the annual National Leadership and Skills Conference. Now, in its 53rd year, the competition saw more than 6,000 high school and collegiate qualifiers compete in front of nearly 1,500 judges in more than 100 categories ranging from Advertising Design to Welding and everything in between. SkillsUSA is a national, nonprofit student organization that has developed more than 10 million workers through active partnerships between employers and educators across the nation.

For details on enrolling at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, or to ask questions about any of the more than 200 programs the college offers on-campus or online, call the college at 866-983-4682. If you are interested in applying to GNTC for fall semester, applications are due by July 24. You can also visit the college at GNTC.edu. Plus, the college’s Student Help Centers can help you with any question you have. Visit a Student Help Center on the Catoosa, Floyd, Gordon, Polk, Walker, or Whitfield Murray CampusesMonday through Friday



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