By Max Hrenda
Highlanders Logan Morrison and Austin Bell won first and second place, respectively, in the American Welding Society’s Holston Valley chapter competition in Rogersville on April 18.
That earned them places in last week’s state competition in Chattanooga, where Bell finished in fourth place.
Welding instructor Sam Potter said his students’ accomplishments were no surprise.
“I am very proud of these boys,” Potter said. “They put forth a lot of dedication and hard-earned time. Even though we placed fourth in the state, I think they can compete against anyone in the nation.”
Potter’s faith in his students may not be unjustified.
Potter’s students have taken the top two spots in the past two competitions, with two other students finishing in fourth and fifth place in 2011.
“Before the competition, I told them that,” Potter said. “They looked at me and said, ‘Well, we’re not going to let you down this year.’ But I told them before we went that I’d be happy if they finished first or last.”
“I could have done a lot better than I did, for both (contests),” Austin said.
Logan elaborated, saying he was shocked by his first-place finish in the regional competition in Rogersville.
“I really was surprised,” Logan said. “I didn’t think I deserved to come in first, because it wasn’t the best I could do.”
Potter said he shared the boys’ opinion of their work, agreeing that both were capable of better.
“I told them both that before the contest was judged,” Potter said. “They both could have done a better job, but nerves kind of get in the way.”
Logan admitted that at first nerves got the better of Austin and him. Once the contest began, however, they managed to find their groove.