By Adam Armour
Itawamba County Times
PEPPERTOWN – If ever there were a grease monkey in this world, Andrew Green would be it.
Cut him, and he just might bleed diesel fuel.
On a recent Thursday, it was just a regular day of work at Roadrunner Service Center in Peppertown, where Green primarily works on diesel engines. He had finished a quick job and shook hands with a grease-stained grip.
The only thing separating this day from any other day waist-deep in the guts of a truck was that, on this day, Green wore a gold medal dangling from his neck. That was out of the ordinary.
In late February, the Mooreville resident and Fulton native attended the annual SkillsUSA Championship in Jackson, where he pitted his skills in diesel technology against some of the best students in the state. Green, an Itawamba Community College freshman, came out on top, earning a gold medal in the category.
According to Green, who has lived and worked around engines both large and small throughout his life, the competition pushed his abilities. The competition is broken down into multiple stages, each of which takes about 20 minutes and focuses on a different area. Typically, the participant will have to perform some specific task, which he or she won’t fully know until it’s time to complete it.
“Really, you don’t know what to expect until you get there,” Green said, explaining that it was important to be well-versed in all areas of diesel technology, diagnosis and repair before entering the competition.
Participants are presented with a series of challenges on just about anything related to the field – they might have to explain the problems with a given circuit board one minute, then change the brakes on a large truck the next – and are judged on criteria such as quickness and accuracy.
But it didn’t take long for Green to fall into a comfortable rhythm and tackle the challenges as if they were an everyday thing.
“After I got past the first one, it was just another day at work,” he said.
Each participant starts a given challenge with 100 points and loses points as he or she makes mistakes. Whoever ends the contest with the most points remaining is the winner.
This year, that would be Green. Nobody was more surprised than he.
“I heard them call my name and … well, that’s basically all I remember,” he said with a laugh.
Next, it’s on to the national competition in Kansas City. That’ll be in June, though Green has already dived headfirst into preparation. At the national competition, he’ll be expected to know diesel engines inside and out. So he’s currently studying blueprints, memorizing every nook, cranny and machine screw until he knows them inside and out.
“I’m really nervous, but I’m going to treat it like it’s just another day at work,” he said. “That’s my strategy.”
And it’s paid off so far. Why change now?
Not that he minds the extra work.
“I love everything about big engines,” he said. “I’ve been around them since I was knee high. … Working on them is what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s in my blood.”
Green’s eyes dropped down to his hands. He held them up, palms facing him. Both hands were covered in black grease and dirt. He grinned.
“It’s under my fingernails, too,” he said.