By Bill Tamburrino
Ramona High School Auto Dawgs have been bringing home awards.
The team of Dustin Ballantyne and Justin Sebenius earned seventh in the national Greater New York Automotive Competition in New York City. Each received a $30,000 scholarship to attend a technical school, and they also brought home shirts, hats, and souvenirs.
Adviser Mike Saavedra enlisted the aid of some of his former students as mentors to work with the Auto Dawgs.
Ramona High School received an automatic invitation to the competition because the Auto Dawgs won the state competition in 2011.
“We took a different approach to training the kids this year,” said Saavedra. “Two alumni, Brandon Grassilli, a recent grad, and Chris Madsen, a 1989 grad who is working in the field at Perry Infinity in Escondido, volunteered to help prepare Dustin and Justin.”
The competition was a two day event. On day one the team worked on very high tech modules that dealt with emissions and diagnostic problems.
Ramona and the other teams that advanced to day two of the competition were each given a Nissan Juke that had 20 “bugs” that had to be detected and corrected in three hours.
The skills and knowledge of the Ramona team impressed Madsen.
“These students are not the stereotypical ‘gear heads.’ They are advanced technicians,” said Madsen. “Dustin and Justin know how to use a laptop and how to read input and fix the problem.”
Grassilli had competed in the same competition two years ago.
“Brandon was able to help the team because the competition was still fresh in his mind and he knew what to prepare them for,” said Saavedra.
Next comes the Ford Motors State Competition in Pomona on May 4 and 5, and they hope to participate in another national competition in in June.
“We are getting help from Nissan of Oceanside and Nissan Corporation with vehicles to work on and alumni mentors,” said Saavedra. “We hope to do well enough to earn a berth at the Ford AAA Trouble Shooting Skills Competition in Dearborn, Michigan.”
While Saavedra and his team were in New York, co-adviser Robert Grace took a contingent to Mission Valley to compete in SkillsUSA State Competition at the Town and Country Convention Center.
They returned with several medals, and three students earned gold.
Tyler Pavlick won a gold medal in motorcycle service technology. Kyle Rash took home gold in collision repair, and Daniel Currie won gold in diesel service technology.
The three Auto Dawgs will advance to the national competition in Kansas City in June.
“The competition was challenging but a lot of fun,” said Pavlick. “We got to know our competition and that will help us in the national competition in Kansas City.”
Mike Morgan received a silver medal in the customer service competition, and Isaac Medina earned a silver medal in the creed competition.
Adam Scull took home a bronze medal in collision repair, and David Taft won a bronze medal in welding.