When Steve Quimby came to Whittier Regional High as a freshman, he had no idea which vocational program he wanted to specialize in.
He spent one week in each of the 20 programs Whittier offers during the freshman exploratory program. One of the programs impressed him the most — masonry.
"All the work that (masons) do really was interesting," Quimby said. "They make everything look nice and it's something I wanted to explore more."
As Quimby approaches the end of his junior year, he might be the best mason that the school has ever seen. Quimby, an Amesbury resident, won a gold medal in masonry at the statewide SkillsUSA competition in Marlborough last month and will compete in the national competition in Kansas City in June.
"I had some confidence going into the competition, but I had no idea that I was going to win," he said of the regional event.
Quimby had to build a 4-by-3-foot block wall which had to be precisely bricked and mortared. He was judged on the levelness, plumb (vertical evenness), range, measurements, uniqueness, safety and jointing of the wall. The other challenge he had to meet was working under a time limit. The wall had to be built in just seven hours and he didn't quite finish it, but his work was still good enough to receive the top prize
"It's difficult to have to do it so quickly,'' Quimby said. "I've tried to practice doing things quicker in the shop. ''
Ray Morneau has worked with Quimby and has helped him get his materials quicker and offered other tips to cut time off his projects. Morneau is in his first year of teaching masonry at Whittier and is impressed with the skill level that Quimby has reached as only a junior.