McNary duo vie to get a Fiesta’s motor running

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Riley Zandol and Ben Manwiller qualified to compete in the Ford/AAA Auto Skills competition Friday, May 9. They are one of only 10 teams to qualify statewide. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Riley Zandol and Ben Manwiller qualified to compete in the Ford/AAA Auto Skills competition Friday, May 9. They are one of only 10 teams to qualify statewide. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

When he was younger, Riley Zandol heard all about working in the McNary High School auto shop.

“My dad talked about working on his Firebird here. When I got to high school, I signed up for shop classes as soon as I could,” Zandol said.

In addition to carrying on that legacy, Zandol and classmate Ben Manwiller will assume roles in another one this week. The pair will travel to Gresham Friday, May 9, to take part in the Ford/AAA Auto Skills competition. The Celtic duo is the third McNary team to qualify for the statewide contest in four years.

Zandol and Manwiller’s written test scores cleared the bar for entry to the larger competition where they will race against the clock to correctly diagnose and repair a deliberately “bugged” 2014 Ford Fiesta SE. They are one of only 10 teams to do so statewide.

“In the written test, we were given problems and had to come up with a possible diagnosis, but there were also some easier things like definitions,” Manwiller said.

A combination of an online written exam and hands-on competition scores determine each state’s championship team. The state champs move on to nationals and compete for scholarships and a chance to learn about and work on race cars with top engineers.

The qualifying tests, which were conducted by McNary teacher Mike Melting, will be a far cry from the hands-on competition.

“When we work on the car everything has to be 100 percent original from the factory. There can’t be any ruffled carpet and trim has to be in the right spots,” Zandol said. “We have two discs with all the service manuals on it, but it’s going to be a test of what we know rather than what we can look up.”

“Our goal is just doing it right as fast as we can,” Manwiller added.

Both seniors spend most of their school days in shop classes. Manwiller hopes to enlist in the Coast Guard and work on boat engines while Zandol is headed to Wyoming Technical Institute with plans to become a diesel engine mechanic.

“The program we have here is just great,” said Manwiller. “I could leave school early, but I choose to stay here.”

Melting said Manwiller is one of the highest achieving students to come through his program at McNary.

“Ben is almost always here for the production work we get at the shop. Riley really came into his own once he got his own car. We can only teach so much, part of it is the students having their own vehicles to work on and tinker with when they break down,” Melting said.

Melting had student teams representing the school in the competition in 2011 and 2012. Lack of interest on the part of students in 2013 may have been the only thing that kept the Celtics from a four-year showing.

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