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Students from Marysville Are Michigan's Best Young Auto Techs, According to AAA

DEARBORN, Mich., April 26 -- Jeffrey Elder of Fort Gratiot and Anthony Fraley of Avoca, seniors at St. Clair County Tech, took first place in the Michigan state final of the 12th annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition, held today at the Macomb Community College Expo Center in Warren. The victory, in competition against nine other teams from Michigan high schools, means more then $36,000 in scholarship prizes and automotive merchandise for Elder and Fraley, and they will go to Dearborn, Mich. in June to represent Michigan in the national Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition.

The St. Clair team, coached by instructor Brian Hunter and sponsored by Northgate Ford, took just over 86 minutes to diagnose and fix the nine electrical and mechanical "bugs" deliberately placed in a 2006 Escape by Ford engineers.

Runners-up in the competition were the team of Jason Kubbe, 19, and Alexander Ernsberger, 18, also from St. Clair County Tech in Marysville. Frederick Kretzinger and Garrett Moore, seniors at Capital Area Career Center in Mason, came in third.

The teams competing today earned their places in the state finals by outscoring teams from 37 other Michigan high schools on a 50-question written exam in February covering all aspects of automotive service.

The top scoring Marysville team of Elder and Fraley also had the highest score in the written exam.

Ford Motor Co. and AAA sponsor the annual Student Auto Skills Competition as part of their ongoing effort to encourage talented high school students to pursue careers as automotive technicians. Each year, the competition draws more than 6,000 high school students in the 50 states, and more than $5 million in scholarships and other prizes are awarded.

While the high school teams were competing in the student event, five experienced, professional technicians from Ford dealerships were competing in the Ultimate Master Technician Challenge in another part of the Expo Center.

Timothy Balawender, a technician at Liberty Ford in Elyria, Ohio, won the $3,000 first prize.

Donald Wojtaszek, a technician with Murray's Ford in Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania, was runner-up, earning a $2,000 cash prize.

Third place and $1,500 went to John Mazzola, a technician with Pat Milliken Ford in Wolverine Lake, Michigan.