ms. Goodwrench Shakes Up Warrens National Auto Repair Contest

by : Lauren Woods

Katy Younglove, a.k.a. Ms. Goodwrench, the first ever female to compete in the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition in Warren, along with her teammate, came in third in the auto repair contest. Her partner on the team was classmate Craig Suydam who is also a senior at Monroe High School.

"I was really excited when I found out I was going to be the first female to ever be in the contest," she said. "I really wanted to show everyone what I can do." Even if Younglove did not win the auto repair contest competition, she will still make history.

Younglove is the first female to qualify for the Michigan state finals in the competition's 14-year history. "Coop told me I was the only girl in the competition," she said, referring to her automotive instructor Ronald Cooper. "I didn't know I was the first female ever, that's kind of crazy." Not only does the team boast the first female competitor, this is the first time that the MHS has had a team qualify for the state finals.

Younglove, 18, and Suydam, 17, both took the introduction to automotive technology class their sophomore years. 'Ms. Goodwrench' grew up around cars and knew since her seventh grade year that she wanted a career in the automotive industry. "I wanted to get into auto shop my freshman year," she said. "I like the program because it's not only book work but hands on, although intro was a lot of book work."

To prepare for the competition, the students were given manuals from AAA to review. Momentum Lincoln Mercury donated a 2007 Grand Marquis, a similar model to the one used on the day of competition, to assist in the preparation.

Cooper, the students' instructor, said that he was pleasantly surprised when he learned that his students qualified for the state finals. "I knew they were capable and prepared. This is one of the finest groups of students I've had in my 31 years of teaching." Cooper intimated that he is proud of his students. "It's a tremendous accomplishment. They are among the best of the best of high school students in Michigan."

Younglove said she is excited, but thinks someone else close to her is even more excited than her. "My dad is more excited about this than I am," she said. "He is taking me out and working on the manuals with me all week and I learned quite a bit."

Younglove is no longer new to the , Ford engines, and to Toyota technology. "My family's always been into cars," she added. "I started helping my dad work on them when I was six or seven."

Both students said that they are prepared for the competition, primarily because of the structure of their high school program. "I love this program and it's one of the best in the state," Craig said. "It's ridiculous how much time Cooper puts into this program and I have learned to apply the things I've learned in here in other classes."

Robert Kaczor, the assistant vice president of automotive services for the AAA Michigan and the AAA Chicago, said Younglove's participation in the contest will hopefully start a trend. "You don't find too many women in the auto repair and service field," he said. "But it's nice to see Katy here. I think that this provides an opportunity to bring more diversity into the auto service industry." The event was held last Wednesday at the Macomb Community College Sports & Expo Center in Warren.

Twenty students from nine Michigan high schools and tech centers vied for top honors in the contest, which pitted two-person teams against each other in a race to correctly diagnose and repair engine problems on identical vehicles. Younglove said that she has always been a gear head.

She also said she was a little surprised at how well her team did. "We were second to the last team to finish - the ninth car to go through the check," Younglove said. "We were worried about our time, but we just pulled together and took our time and didn't freak out."

Alex Dobroy of Clinton and Zachary Hastings of Milan, the team from Saline High School, came in first place with a time of 49 minutes and 50 seconds. Second place went to the team of Joshua Hoeskstra of Hastings and Jeremy Winget of Grand Rapids, which represented the Kent Career Tech Center.

The winners will receive more than $45,000 in scholarships and prizes. They will also represent the state in the national finals, scheduled for June 26 at Ford's headquarters in Dearborn.