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San Luis Obispo High School Wins State Ford/AAA Auto Skills Championship


Ford AAA Skills Contest California Champions
SLO High students Samuel Castenholz and Michael Mullen with instructor Jeff Lehmkuhl
(LOS ANGELES, May 9, 2011) – Two students from San Luis Obispo High in central California, beat 38 other students to win the California 2011 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition Friday.  The competition, sponsored by Ford Motor Company and the Automobile Club of Southern California, is designed to find the most talented young auto technicians in the U.S.
San Luis Obispo High competed in the Southern California contest, held at the Wally Parks NHRA Museum at the Fairplex in Pomona this morning. It earned the state championship by achieving the highest overall score among the 10 two-student teams at the museum, as well as beating scores of 10 two-student teams who were competing simultaneously in Northern California. The Golden State is the only state with two same-day competitions.
San Luis Obispo High students Samuel Castenholz, and Michael Mullen, completed the Southern California hands-on competition in 59 minutes and 42 seconds, finding and repairing 10 out of 10 problems planted in the vehicle by judges.  The students each won four college scholarships, including a $20,000 scholarship to United Technical Institute and a two-year, $3,000 scholarship to one of 60 higher education schools participating in the Ford Motor Company’s Automotive Student Service Educational Training (ASSET) program.    The pair also won repair tools for finishing on top.   The winning San Luis Obispo High School team instructor is Jeff Lehmkuhl, who also received a trophy for the high school. 
“Samuel and Michael repaired a 2011 Ford Mustang today with 10 ‘bugs’ and made all 10 repairs correctly, meaning it was a ‘perfect car’,” said Ford/AAA Auto Skills Competition Chairman and the Auto Club’s Motor Sports Manager Rick Lalor.  “This team attends a high school with a long tradition of first-class student automotive technician teams who’ve competed on the national level.  They consistently demonstrate high-quality professional workmanship and the sophisticated knowledge needed to repair today’s vehicles.”
Ramona High’s team of Donald Dutcher and Matthew Swafford, coached by Mike Saavedra, finished second in the Southern California competition, while Poway High’s William Golden and Joshua Ruuskin, coached by Kenneth Faverty took third place.
The competition winners were determined by scores on an online qualifying exam and the team’s performance in the statewide hands-on under-the-hood competition to repair quickly and accurately a deliberately disabled 2011 Ford Mustangs.
As statewide champion, the San Luis Obispo High team advances to the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals in Dearborn, MI, June 12-14 where $12 million in scholarships and prizes will be distributed.  Over the years, Lehmkuhl has taken his students to the national finals where they finished first (in 2007), 2nd, 4th and 20th.
The Auto Club co-sponsors the annual competition to draw attention to the need to attract qualified students to high-paying automotive professions.  Mechanics with two-year degrees are expected to be able earn a mean annual wage of nearly $40,000 annually.  The highest 10 percent earned an average of $60,000 annually and up to $100,000 or more annually for master-certified automotive technicians.  
Trained automotive technicians are among the most sought-after and highly paid professionals in today’s job market, but many high schools are reducing or eliminating automotive programs due to lack of funding and/or trained teachers.  At the same time, there are almost 250 million cars and trucks in operation in the U.S., according to R.L. Polk & Co.’s 2009 data.  
1. San Luis Obispo
Jeff Lehmkuhl
Samuel Castenholz
Michael Mullen
Mike Saavedra
Donald Dutcher
Matthew Swafford
3. Poway
Kenneth Faverty
William Golden
Joshua Ruuskin
4. San Clemente
James Dunlap
Daniel Pollak
Steel Simmonds
5. Ramona
Robert Grace
Dan Drago
Nestor Rodriguez
6. Agoura
John Andersen
Malcolm Hunter
Drake Landy
7. Lompoc
Michael Johnson
Raymond Chavoya
Jose Lizarraga
8. San Marcos ROP
Russell Granger
Christian Mkpado
Robert Behlman
9. El Camino
Joshua Pianowski
Jose Linares
Blake Marshall
10. Monte Vista
Michael Fleming
Jeff Brito-Munoz
Gustavo Sanchez

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The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.