Lincoln Academy students who attend Bath Tech and medaled in the statewide SkillsUSA competition for Career and Technical Education students are, from left: Sadie Bryant, who won a Bronze medal in Cosmetology, Gewn Weaver, who won a Gold Medal in Culinary, and Eleanor Nery, who won a Silver Medal in Baking and Pastry.

On March 15, 2024, three Lincoln Academy students who attend classes at Bath Regional Career and Technical Center (BRCTC) won medals at the SkillsUSA statewide Career and Technical Education Competition, which took place in Bangor. Senior Gwen Weaver won a gold medal in the Culinary competition, senior Eleanor Nery won a silver medal in the Baking and Pastry Competition, and senior Sadie Bryant won a bronze medal in the Cosmetology Competition.

SkillsUSA is a national organization that provides students with opportunities to develop leadership, teamwork, and technical skills through hands-on competitions and training programs. BRCTC Students who are recommended by their instructors compete each year at the Maine event.

Each of the three competitors was selected by their BRCTC instructors to compete at SkillsUSA. Eleanor and Gwen participated in cooking competitions in their senior culinary class to qualify, and Sadie was chosen by her instructor.

“Once I knew I would be competing, my instructors started helping me practice,” said Gwen. She worked on the skills known to be on the culinary competition, including dressing a chicken into its component parts, making a stock, and mixing an emulsified dressing. “I worked on chickens every day at [Bath Tech]. I did a lot of practicing that was outside of our regular voc programming” she said. “My instructors really helped me be ready.”

Eleanor worked on her baking and pastry skills during the months leading up to the competition. Knowing that timing would be her biggest challenge, “we had some mock competitions in class to practice with the timing and equipment.” Sadie spent extra time practicing updos during her Bath Tech classes, and even brought a manikin home to get extra practice time in.

Both of the cooking competitions were structured similarly, with competitors given four hours, and all of the ingredients to make a required list of dishes. Each was required to bring all of their equipment: pots, pans, mixer, knives, bowls, etc. with them, which required them to organize and pack “a huge rubber tub on wheels” for the competition, according to Eleanor. Timing was critical for both competitions, requiring the student chefs to plan carefully. Gwen cut her chicken first, and after the judges scored her on that, she reserved part of the chicken for her main course and put the rest in a pot to make stock. Eleanor, meanwhile, mixed up her yeast roll dough and set it to rise before starting work on her cookies and biscuits. Competitors are docked points for going any amount over time.

“Timing was the biggest challenge for me,” said Eleanor, “because of all the stuff we had to make: a frosted cake, biscuits, chocolate chip cookies, dutch apple pie, yeast rolls, and whoopie pies, all in 4 hours.”

Student cooks also had to clean up their station and all of their dishes within the four hour window. Gwen said that cleaning up was part of her work flow. “The key to having a focused mind is staying organized, so I tried to clean up as I went along,” she said.

Bath Tech culinary instructor Elizabeth Baldwin helped her students get to the finish line. She said Eleanor and Gwen are both “wonderful, gifted students-students like them do not come around often. Eleanor is full of such focus and drive. She is very curious and always tries to better her game. The biscuits she created could of been on a magazine cover. The dough and flakiness was perfect.”

Gwen, meanwhile, “was so focused. Her salad dressing was a perfect emulsion. And the judges commented on the amazing flavors of her chicken dish–one judge ate almost the whole plate!”

The cosmetology competition involved a single challenge: an updo on a manikin that competitors had one hour to complete. “We didn’t know what the updo would be until the day of the competition,” Sadie said. When they arrived they were assigned, “a left-parted french braid into a low bun with twists and braids throughout it.” Sadie received the highest score from the judges for her updo, but lost points because she failed to test the temperature of her curling iron the way judges required. “I tested it on my hand, but we were supposed to test it on a piece of perming paper,” said Sadie.

Cosmetology instructor Jillian Sawyer said, “Sadie impressed judges with her intricate long hair design and styling techniques. Her dedication to her craft and attention to detail set her apart from the competition, showcasing her talent and passion for the beauty industry.”

All three students agree that competition, while stressful, is a helpful preparation for real-world time pressures in the workplace. “In the workplace you are on a timeframe, and it’s not always your own. It is good to be able to do things under pressure,” said Sadie.

“The competition helps me use skills outside of the classroom,” said Eleanor. “Moving from skill to skill with multiple products, having to juggle different things at one time,” is similar to restaurant work. “My head was just packed with so much happening.”

Sadie plans to attend Aveda Institute next year to complete her Cosmetology certification. Eleanor, who currently works at River House in Damariscotta, plans to take a gap year before going on to culinary school. Gwen, who currently works at Bred in the Bone Restaurant in Damariscotta, plans to continue her culinary studies at SMCC next year.

Below, left: Eleanor Nery receives a Silver Medal medal for Baking and Pastry. Below, center: Gwen Weaver during the Culinary competition. Below, left: Sadie Bryant prepares to style an updo on a manikin.