Alright, I'm back.
Kansas City is a really cool place, lots of fountains, huge convention centers, odd hotels and stuff. The hotel the the Pennsylvania Delegation stayed at was connected to a mall and another hotel with a 30ft waterfall in the lobby. We never had to go outside in the 90 degree weather to get lunch or anything, and we could (not that we did) eat at a different restaurant for every meal.
Before anything else, a little word about what SkillsUSA is. SkillsUSA is an organization primarily in College and Vocational schools across the country that gets students involved in networking with each other, and practically helping them to prepare themselves for their future. SkillsUSA hold the annual SkillsUSA National Leadership Conference and Skills Competition (in Kansas City for the last several years, but Louisville, KY just won the bid for the Conference in 2015).
So I got their a day early for everything and got settled in Kansas City during the first day. The second day we checked into "Headquarters" and had a Delegation meeting. I was the "Keynote speaker", apparently it is tradition for the Prepared Speech competitor to give his speech in front of the Delegation at the opening meeting. So I gave it in front of over 225 Delegates, Competitiors and Advisors.
Before I write any more, I should explain that any time not accounted for was not TV time. You see, every state delegation has a state pin. Many people buy extras of their own state pins and then attempt to collect all the other pins by trading. You get blue fabric maps and pin your collection onto them, and race around one of the convention centers trying to catch those elusive Montanans, South Dakotans, and Hawaiians. I must say proudly that I collected all the pins from the United States, except Montana and Hawaii (however I did get the Navajo Nation pin and did not even attempt to get the Canada, Guam, or Virgin Islands pins). The Hawaiians were used to being mugged for their pins apparently, and they would only release 5 of them each day, demand exorbitant prices and give you little leis if they were out of pins for the day. So this is what 90% of my down time was filled with.
Tuesday we had orientation, where we went to our competition areas and called up Miss America style to check in with the technical comittee who was overseeing the Preapared Speech Competition. After Many redundant questions they let us go.
Tuesday evening was also the Opening Ceremony. I can tell, there is certainly a lot of pomp and ceremony for a student run thing like it is. It is held in Kemper Arena, the only place in the city big enough to hold 11,000 people. So you can hear the music even from outside the stadium, and once you get inside there is the roar of thousands of people cheering and clapping. You walk up the steps on one of the upper balconies and you see a sea of flashing lights (each state does something for "state spirit" Texas wears cowboy hats, Washington wears umbrella hats, Maryland wears crab hats and various other states do flashing necklaces or hats or something) Strobe lights flash, patriotic music blares and the masses of red suits waves and flows. (the official SkillsUSA attire is a red blazer or windbreaker and is required at all official functions) Spot lights wave, and it is really an amazing feeling for the the first half hour or so. There is the emblem ceremony and the introduction of the officers and those are always exciting, then there was the mini game of deal or no deal in which SkillsUSA won the one million dollar case. There was some more stuff and then they introduced the speakers. This was an hour later. You see the Midwest is not known for mild summers and the "peanut gallery' doesn't get that much air-conditioning. And we were getting rather warm in our polyester blazers; so when they still hadn't introduced the keynote speaker we slipped out along with hundreds of other people and took the shuttle back to our hotel along with a couple other bus-loads of people. We got ice cream. :-)
Wednesday I had Preliminary Competition which went well. I only stuttered once.
Wednesday evening was the Champions Festival which included a dance, a blowup slide, an obstacle course, a gladiator arena and some other stuff. I spent the whole evening chasing people for pins, and racing another Pennsylvania guy for all the continental U.S. Around 10:00 that evening we found out I had made the finals, so it was early bed for me X-p while my advisor stayed up to starch my shirts and iron my blazer.
Thursday morning into afternoon was finals. They went perfectly; no mistakes, no stutters, no stumbles.
Thursday evening we went to the Worlds of Fun amusement park. It's not quite Hershey Park, but still fun with a bunch of other teenagers.
Friday I had to be in the lobby of the hotel at 7:00 to catch the shuttle bus to head off to the annual Community Service project. My group spent the day in the woods creating hiking trails through a National Wild Area. We blazed, clipped and hacked over a mile of walking paths (we had permission and careful supervision).
Friday night was closing and awards. None of the people I traveled with medaled, but I am proud to say that there were 99 competitions and Pennsylvania brought home 10 gold, 9 silver, and 9 bronze medals. (again, we skipped out midway, we only waited to see the first 3 hours of the ceremony. this time we went and got supper)
After the losers who stayed for the rest of the awards got back there was an icecream social where we got certificates for our participation, and found out how us non-medal-havers had placed overall.
I placed 12th out of 12 finalists (out of an original 43). This was unacceptable, and even more so when my mother called saying that final scores had been posted online.
Between preliminaries and finals, my scores dropped dramatically so much that I would not have even come close to being a finalist if that had been my preliminary score. Here are the major drops.
Organization: Dropped 50 points (for the exact same speech)
Closing: 30 points (again for the exact same speech)
Appearance: 10 points (remember, between preliminaries and finals we starched my shirts, polished my shoes, ironed my blazer, and put makeup on my face)
The other drops were not as significant.
We are looking into what happened with those scores and are trying to challenge the placing.
The flight home was smooth, even if we had to be up at 5:00 in the morning to catch it (as opposed to last year when we had to be up at 3:00)
So that was Nationals and an account of my week. I wonder how many people actually made it through this thing?