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Mascenic School District

A drive to succeed

NEW IPSWICH: Mascenic automotive students head to national finals

  • Mascenic Automotive Career Center students Jack Buchanan, right, and Liam Tardiff prepare to head to Manhattan, New York, for a national automotive competition.
  • Mascenic Automotive Career Center student Jack Buchanan tightens bolts on the tires of the training car he is using to prepare for an upcoming national automotive competition.
  • Liam Tardiff prepares to head to Manhattan, New York, for a national automotive competition.
  • Mascenic Automotive Career Center students Jack Buchanan, right, and Liam Tardiff, left, prepare to head to Manhattan, New York, for a national automotive competition.
  • Mascenic Automotive Career Center students Jack Buchanan, right, and Liam Tardiff prepare to head to Manhattan, New York, for a national automotive competition.
  • Mascenic Automotive Career Center teacher Vincent Fitante and Liam Tardiff prepare to head to Manhattan, New York, for a national automotive competition.
  • Mascenic Automotive Career Center student Liam Tardiff prepares to head to Manhattan, New York, for a national automotive competition.
  • Mascenic Automotive Career Center students Jack Buchanan and Liam Tardiff prepare to head to Manhattan, New York, for a national automotive competition.
  • Mascenic Automotive Career Center students Jack Buchanan and Liam Tardiff prepare to head to Manhattan, New York, for a national automotive competition.

It’s not unusual for the students of the Mascenic Automotive program to receive national recognition. The program has consistently turned out high scoring students in both state and national competitions. But when it comes to the upcoming National Automotive Technical competition in New York, the top spot has been eluding the Mascenic students since they netted their last first place win in 2002.

“What are my hopes? First place, that’s easy,” said Mascenic Automotive instructor Vincent Fittante in an interview at the Mascenic Automotive Center on Tuesday. “I’ve taken lesser talent and taken top 10.”

This year, Fittante’s students Jack Buchanan, 18, of Brookline and Liam Tardif, 17, of Hollis were the team who scored the highest in the state on a written exam given by the N.H. Auto Dealers in January. Their scores qualify them for a national competition, where they will have to race against 49 other teams to debug a new-model Chevrolet, with points awarded for both speed and accuracy. Fittante, Buchanan and Tardif will be attending the competition, held at the Javits Center in Manhattan, on April 22.

“These two are very driven, very dedicated, and ambitious,” said Fittante. “Some years, it’s been difficult to get the kids to come after school to practice. I don’t have that problem with them. If anything, they’re wearing me out. Which is a good thing.”

In interviews Tuesday, Buchanan and Tardif said they have long been interested in anything that moves — starting with their bikes, working their way up to interest in small engines, and then eventually, to motor vehicles. Both hope to eventually be mechanics and work in auto dealerships. Both boys attend Hollis-Brookline for regular courses, and travel to Mascenic specifically for the automotive course there.

Buchanan said that he was the first of the two in the program, while Tardif started out in an automotive program in Nashua. But when the two were sharing stories, the two programs didn’t seem to stack up, he said.

“It was nothing compared to this program,” recalled Tardif. “This place is incredible.”

Buchanan recommended Tardif make the switch, after he saw the amount of hands-on, applicable work they were doing at Mascenic.

“It was so much more than I’d hoped,” said Buchanan. “I thought it would be training cars in a lot. But as you see here, it’s all real, customers’ cars. It’s a fully functioning shop.”

Neither student was expecting to score the highest in the state during the written test, they said, and this will be the first competition they will be involved in. And both are motivated to bring home first place, studying the computer database involved and doing hands-on training with the vehicle they’ll be working on in the competition after school under Fittante’s guidance.

“We’re both studying during school and after,” said Tardif. “It would mean the world [to win.]”

Fittante said he has high hopes that the duo will be able to bring home a championship this year. Having had students qualify for this competition more than a dozen times now, he said he’s beginning to feel like a veteran of the game. And because of that experience, he’s trying to train Buchanan and Tardif in more than just car skills to prepare. Having taken students with outstanding talent before, and netting multiple second place national finishes and consistently finishing in the top 10, has shown Fittante that his students are capable of performing at a high level nationally.

“What I’m not able to account for — the only thing I can’t prepare for — is being nervous,” said Fittante. “That’s the X factor.”

This year, he added, he’s been attempting to eliminate that factor as he coaches the two boys.

“I’ve tried to train them not only on the car, but in the mind set,” he said. “We’re in it to win first place. It’s like any sports competition. You have to go in and say ‘Why not us? Why not me? Why not now?’ Their goal is first place. They’re focused on first, and that’s what I want them to be focused on. This might be the year to ring the bell.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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