Decatur grad takes 3rd in national auto skills competition

Gordon Sabin (right) with Luke Thompson at the competition in Kansas City. - Courtesy photo
Gordon Sabin (right) with Luke Thompson at the competition in Kansas City.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Recently graduated Decatur High School senior Gordon Sabin competed against 50 other students as part of the 2012 SkillsUSA National Automotive Service Championship — and came home with a third-place finish.

The competition took place June 26 in Kansas City, Mo., and allows career and technical students to show off their skills on the big stage.

Luke Thompson, Decatur’s automotive technology instructor, recounted Sabin’s path to the podium at the national competition in Kansas City, saying his student performed well every step of the way.

“(Gordon) had started out at the regional contest in February, where he finished in second place. That qualified him for the state contest, in April, at South Seattle Community College,” Thompson said. “And that was the regional winners from around the state, about 25 to 30.”

Sabin took first place at the statewide competition, giving him the opportunity to head to Kansas City and compete with the best of the best. Thompson recounted the wide array of tasks Sabin had to face over eight hours.

“There were 13 stations set up, it was an eight hour contest, all day long,” Thompson said. “11 of the stations were skill stations, hands-on skills and different automotive tasks. One was a written test, and the last station was a job interview. All 51 students (one from Puerto Rico) do every station. They’re scored throughout, and at the end, Gordon took third place out of 51 state champs. It’s a big deal to finish that well.”

Sabin pulled in some pretty nice prizes as a result of his high finish, including tools, a laptop computer from Toyota, and a number of scholarships. For Thompson, it was gratifying to see his student rank among the top in the nation when it comes to automotive skills.

“He really wanted to do well at this, he worked hard for it, and he ended up finishing on the podium,” Thompson said of his four-year student. “It justifies all the work I put into it, when he can take the knowledge and skills he’s learned from me and do so well.”

A few local businesses were instrumental in getting Sabin to Kansas City, Thompson said. Chief among them were Les Schwab and Discount Tire. Thompson hopes that Federal Way students and families recognize the importance of Decatur’s automotive program.

“There’s a wide variety of students who are showing up every day to Federal Way schools, and the more different opportunities we can give them to help make them successful, the better,” he said. “We’ve got a number of students, when they leave the program, they enter the industry and are making a good wage and doing a respected job.”

He added: “I’ve got three juniors in paid internships with local dealerships this summer.”

Learn more

To find out more about Federal Way Public Schools Career and Technical Education program, visit


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