Students get charged up for rally
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Chris Dinkel knew Beloit High School would be the new kid on the block to contend with this year after finishing just a few points behind Hays High School for the state championship last spring.
Dinkel, sponsor for Hays High School's Industrial Technology Association, was right.
Beloit, in just its third race of competition, recorded the most laps at the 13th annual High Plains Electrorally Thursday to claim the 2012 championship.
Junior Tanner Culp cruised around the track in West Frontier Park in Hays, completing 66 laps in the 60-minute time span to win top honors in a tight race. Only five laps separated first and sixth place in the 11-team field.
Stockton was second with 64 laps, edging Scott City, which also recorded 64 laps but crossing the finish line later than Stockton. Great Bend was one lap in back of those two teams with 63, Clearwater was fifth with 62, and Hoisington finished with 61.
"How long does the winning last?" Dinkel said in reference to HHS' state title. "After you see the trophy, it's time to start over."
That's exactly what Hays High did this fall, after losing six seniors off last year's team and bringing four cars to Thursday's competition.
"We've got some freshmen who are really motivated about it, really charged up about the program," Dinkel said. "That's where you want to be as a program."
Hays High didn't go back to school empty-handed Thursday, taking home the second-place plaque in the solar car division. Sophomore Lukas Dickinson drove the solar-powered car 33 laps to finish behind Dighton, which recorded 50 laps.
The runner-up finish was the highest at the High Plains meet for Stockton, which also is young this year after losing three experienced seniors to graduation last spring.
Stockton driver Nicholas Henry, a junior driving in his first full race, and his crew got a boost from some of those former teammates as Cody Deutscher and Kody Niblock, now freshmen at Fort Hays State University, came to the park to watch the race.
"That was nice to see them show up to watch and support us," said Shane Austin, Stockton's agriculture teacher in charge of the school's electric car program.
The Beloit students work on their cars in a transportation exploration class on the North Central Kansas Technical College campus.
Bob Gibbons, NCK Tech's auto technology instructor who teaches that class, observed patiently while his high school students welded and constructed the car in class.
He knew what the end result would be, even though the students might not have.
"They struggled through the winter because they weren't seeing any progress," Gibbons said. "But once they got out in the spring and were able to race, they were excited to get going."
Get going Beloit did, finishing 14-hundredths of a point in back of HHS as overall state runner-up. Beloit actually won first in state competition in the experimental (solar) car division last year and was second in standard.
If Thursday's performance is any indication, the team from north central Kansas will continue making some noise. In the past, the heavyweights in the state have come from western Kansas, most notably Hays High and Scott City.
"That's going to force us to get a lot better," Dinkel said. "What makes (Beloit) better makes us better."
Like always, Dinkel will use the fall semester as a learning experience for the spring races that count toward statewide standings. HHS will compete again Oct. 6 in Hanston.
"We've worked 15 years to get to this point, where every year you have a good group coming in. It's kind of neat, having some new blood," Dinkel said, adding that his students learn something from every race, no matter how they finish.
"Do we want to win every one of them? You bet we do," he said. "But I also tell them to remember it's what it takes to get here is what's important."