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Just takes a Minute to Win It

9/4/2012

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

It took Derrick Downie a few years and stints at a couple of colleges to settle on his field of study. It took him less than a minute to make a lot of friends at his new school.

Downie outlasted Garret Teegerstrom to win the inaugural "Minute to Win It" contest at the North Central Kansas Technical College Hays campus Friday afternoon.

That means the plumbing, heating and air conditioning department, where Downie is a student, will get to display the traveling trophy throughout the 2012-13 school year.

With the clock winding down, Downie won the contest with the face the cookie tiebreaker event in which contestants move cookies from their forehead into their mouth using only their face muscles.

The two finalists had been tied for several rounds before Downie finally put an end to the suspense when he slid the cookie into his mouth just ahead of Teegerstrom, a student from Larned in the residential electricity program.

"I was feeling pretty good when they did the face the cookie," Downie said. "I've played it before and knew I had a chance at it."

Downie said he was most nervous during the nutstacker event, where players have to stack 10 large metal nuts by sliding them off a chopstick.

"That was probably the hardest," he admitted. "I kept shaking."

The two finalists weren't the only ones on pins and needles through the last few rounds of the finals.

The student service center in the campus administration building was packed with a vocal crowd cheering on fellow students representing their department.

"Just two more Kylie, you can do it," nursing students urged Kylie Basgall, a second-year nursing student from Hays and a finalist for the nursing department.

Each department had preliminaries to determine a winner for the finals.

Shelly Macumber, student services coordinator, decided to try the contest -- a takeoff on a television game show -- this year as a "fun way for the students to get to know each other a little better right away."

"Our setting is a little different; our campus doesn't have many clubs and organizations," said Louis Ochoa, admissions counselor at the Hays campus. "So our students don't have the chance to get to know each other like some (schools)."

They do now.

"There was a lot of competitiveness with this," Ochoa said. "We got a lot of great support from the faculty, letting students out of class to do this, and it was really a lot of fun. I think it could make the departments have a little more camaraderie now, make them a little stronger."

Downie, for one, said he thought it was "a great way" to start a new school year and is glad he made the decision to attend NCK Tech.

After graduating from Salina South High School, Downie earned an associate degree from Cloud County Community College in Concordia, then transferred to Fort Hays State University. Downie changed majors a couple times and was unsure of his future before deciding on the PHAC program at NCK Tech.

"I knew the program was popular, and I heard the new instructor was really good," Downie said of Jason Leeds, who tripled his enrollment in just his second year at the school this year. "I grew up messing around with this kind of stuff, and my brother went to the technical school in Salina, so I thought I'd give this a try."

Ochoa said Downie is one example of the four-year college route not being for everyone.

"There are a lot of jobs out there in the technical field," Ochoa said. "I think students are seeing that, and our school is growing."