VICTORIA -- In the 12 years Victoria High School students have been competing in the State SkillsUSA Championships, they have placed in the top 10 numerous times but never had finished first and advanced to nationals.

Consistency paid off, though.

This year, Victoria was invited to participate in the state team welding fabrication competition, and the three students took advantage of their chance.

Seniors Trenton Klaus and Nathan Kuhn and junior Bryan Dome will compete in their specialty against 34 other teams from across the country at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo.

"I was surprised when we got invited (to the state team competition)," said Bruce Engel, who has taught welding and cabinetmaking at VHS for 22 years. "They typically invite the big skills to that. I guess we made a name for ourselves that we finally got on the list."

The Victoria trio hopes to make even more of a name for itself today while getting to represent the entire state of Kansas.

"As a small school, we were excited to get an invite to state," Engel said. "Then they were really excited to see what they got for winning (state)."

The VHS students each won duffle bags, along with some welding tools and personal protective equipment.

All the tools for participating at nationals are provided for the competitors. All they had to bring along was their personal protective equipment, which was provided to the Victoria students by Matheson Natural Gas and Petroleum in Hays.

"Matheson donated $250 worth of equipment for us to come," Engel said. "And we were really appreciative of that."

Kuhn plans to attend North Central Kansas Technical College in Beloit next year and study in the welding program, while Klaus is going to major in feedlot management at Colby Community College. Dome, who will be a senior at VHS in the fall, also plans to continue a career in welding after graduation, Engel said.