HHS students garner first electrorally state title
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Spencer Hitchcock knew he had to place second in the race to have a shot at a state championship. So he waved off his race chiefs' hand signals to slow down.
Good thing. Hitchcock, a senior at Hays High School, drove the Indians' car No. 20 to a second-place finish at the Southern Kansas Electrorally on Saturday in Clearwater, finishing ahead of Ulysses and knowing the team had a shot at the state championship.
That finish, combined with a top-notch report, gave HHS its first state title in Chris Dinkel's highly successful program at Hays High.
Hays High finished with a low score of 1.36, edging out Beloit, which finished with a 1.5.
The spring circuit includes three state-qualifying races, from which points are tallied for awards at the end of the season. Points also are given for the students' report on their project.
"The difference was the report," Dinkel said, "because we scored a perfect score of one-tenth of a point."
Dinkel's students have finished in the top three at state nearly every year since they started participating in electrorallies in the mid-1990s.
But while competing against the likes of dominant programs from Scott City and Ulysses, first place always had eluded Hays High -- until now, thanks in part to Hitchcock.
Drivers take their cue from the pit crew watching the clock, and maximize their battery energy.
"Luke was telling me to slow down," Hitchcock said of classmate Luke Madden, one of the race chiefs along with senior Cameron Rohleder.
"But I knew we had plenty of battery left, so I kept going."
Hitchcock covered 60 laps in the 60-minute time allowance, finishing just behind Beloit's 61 total. But HHS' report helped the Indians edge Beloit for the state title.
That helped give Dinkel and his students in the school's Industrial Technology Association its first state title.
Hitchcock now will take the skills he learned in the high school program to Houston School of Automotive Machinists, where he will attend school in the fall.
Madden, Rohleder and senior Koby Daily, in charge of the pit crew, are headed to Kansas State University next fall to major in engineering.
"This is a tremendous benefit for them," Dinkel said. "Seldom do you get to test what you build, and this is engineering and design from the ground up. It's the full gamut."
Other members of this spring's state championship racing series for HHS include:
Senior Mark Mathis
Juniors Ross Hoffman, Joe Pfeifer and Lane Smith.
Sophomores Kord Albers, Kaden Beilman, Blake Cooper, Brett Hertel, Kirk Pfannenstiel, Ben Prindle, Dylan Schmidt, John Staab and Dakota Zimmerman.