Douglas auto students place at regional skills contest

Douglas High auto tech teacher Cade Baligad said two of his students "really stepped up to the plate" during the SkillsUSA regional automotive contest March 6.

"I'm really proud of them," Baligad said. "They were excited to go to the contest and use all their training. Both worked their tails off."

Senior Christina Henning, 17, and junior Cody Sugden, also 17, were up against more than two dozen students from nine Northern Nevada high schools.

The competition lasted from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and entailed more than a dozen stations, with challenges from finding errors in the disc brakes of a Ford pickup to performing a safety check on a Kia.

At the end of the day, Henning, one of only two girls at the competition, placed 13th. Sugden took third place and will now be advancing to the state finals in Las Vegas, April 27-29.

"I was a little nervous, kind of going in blind," said Sugden, who's been in auto tech for two and a half years. "It was my first time competing."

Sugden said the most difficult station was the electro-trainer, where students had to test circuits and wires.

"I had never done it before," he said.

Nevertheless, Sugden placed third, and now is taking one more step toward the career he's chosen for himself.

"I want to go to UTI (Universal Technical Institute) in Phoenix," he said. "I want to be a diesel mechanic."

Sugden said his father, Bill Sugden, has been the biggest influence in his life when it comes to cars.

"My dad had a shop in the house, and I was always working with him, ever since I was a kid," Sugden said. "I just like having the satisfaction of being able to fix something with my hands."

Sugden's favorite fix is the car he currently owns - a '65 Volkswagen Bug.

Like her classmate, Henning said mechanical prowess runs in her family. Her father Chris Henning is the master equipment tech for East Fork Fire & Paramedic Districts. Henning herself, a second year student in auto tech, is also an intern at Pro Tech Auto in Gardnerville.

Next fall, Henning will attend Lassen Community College in Susanville, Calif., where she plans to play volleyball for the school and take more automotive and diesel classes.

"I want to try to go with the economy, and do something that's still present in the future, like electric cars," she said. "But I still love diesels. I love the power of them."

Henning said her favorite car is a Shelby Cobra, but she also enjoys her 2001 Ford Mustang.

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