By Ed Sunkin, editor
Zachary Bryant and Corey Zamenski set an extraordinary precedent at the Ford/AAA Auto Skills finals in June – it was the first time two juniors participated on a team at the national level.
Bryant and Zamenski, who are now seniors at Eastern Technical High School, Baltimore, MD, now share their experiences with other students at the school who are revving up for the competition.
Unfortunately, the pair cannot compete again this year as seniors due to contest rules. However, the pair said they are willing to share their diagnostic skills, competition tips and contest advice with other students from their automotive class.
Both students said they gained valuable experience from the state and national contests. “I learned that even if you are the underdog and aren’t expected to do much, you can still overcome and achieve any goal imaginable,” Bryant said.
At the national event, which was attended and judged by staff from Tomorrow’s Technician, the pair finished first in the hands-on part of the test in which they had to diagnose and fix various bugs deliberately set in the Ford vehicle.
According to their auto instructor, Eldridge Watts, while the pair had their car running perfect in the shortest amount of time, the written part of the test from the day before covered auto topics not taught until their senior year at Eastern Tech, so Bryant and Zamenski had to settle for second place.
Watts said to get to the national finals, the pair had to beat out students from 62 automotive programs across Maryland by completing a demanding, competitive written test on solving automotive problems. It was the school’s third straight Maryland Championship in the last four years. “We had an excellent team of students in place for the competition this year,” he said.
Besides learning about repair at their school, the pair also serve as interns at Al Packer’s White Marsh Ford in Baltimore.
“They are fantastic — very attentive, and they pick things up quick,” said Don Huebel, operations director at Al Packer, adding the duo work under the direction of a certified ASE master technician.
And, both students have fathers who have experience in the auto service industry. In fact, Zamenski said he attends Eastern Tech because his brother, Kevin, graduated from there in 2002. “I had been helping him work on cars and noticed that Kevin knew a lot,” he said, adding Kevin now works at their father’s body shop.
Bryant said his father has had automotive jobs ranging from a shop owner to a body man, adding he currently works on diesels (big street sweepers).
“Basically, I have been in the garage with my dad since I was in diapers and he is the one who got me interested into cars” Bryant said.
Bryant said he joined the auto program at Eastern Tech because he believed it was a good academic school. “I have been around cars all my life and I wanted to major in this field in high school,” Bryant said.
Zamenski’s advice to other students in state and national competitions – “I would say that to succeed they should know the car inside and out, and when you are competing, do not get discouraged when another team closes their hood before you.”
Both students plan to use the more than $140,000 in scholarship money that they were awarded from the state and national contests to further their education in the automotive service industry.
Zamenski plans to attend the ASSET program at the Community College of Baltimore, County Catonsville, and then transfer to another college for his bachelor’s degree in business or math.
Note: Linda Garman Weimer of Northeast Booster contributed to this report.