St. George students win SkillsUSA national competition in Atlanta

ST. GEORGE — When St. George students Dylan Pace and Dusty Hart stepped into SkillsUSA’s national competition in June, they felt fully confident they could dominate the screen printing contest. 

Dylan Pace (front right) and Dusty Hart (center back) place in national SkillsUSA competition, Atlanta, Georgia, June 23, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Kyler Kelsch, St. George News

SkillsUSA is a nonprofit, educational partnership of students, teachers and industry professionals that prepares upcoming trade professionals and builds essential networking for future careers. 

 Pace, 18, and Hart, 19, both won their age-group state competitions in screen printing prior to this summer, qualifying them to represent Utah on the national level. Hart and Pace also work at Geezy Tees in St. George, a professional screen printing business founded and run by Kyler Kelsch, a St. George resident and previous SkillsUSA winner himself.

The two-day national competition in Atlanta, Georgia was based on a point system awarded by certified judges. Over 5,200 students competed across 108 different occupational contests, including dental hygiene, home construction, culinary arts and criminal justice. Prizes ranged just as widely, including a brand-new Harley Davidson and personal welding sets.

 SkillsUSA separated the screen printing competitors into cyclical workstations that measured different aspects of the competitors’ screen printing abilities, such as speed of work and quality control.

“I wasn’t stressed or nervous. I was just happy to be there,” Pace said. “I really appreciate work and working hard. I absolutely hate vacations — it just throws off my grind. This seemed like a work vacation, which I really enjoyed.”

The abilities SkillsUSA measured were the very same skills Pace and Hart utilized every day professionally at Geezy Tees.

“I felt mellow throughout the competition because I’ve done the tasks thousands of times,” Hart said. “It wasn’t my first time competing, and it was just natural.”

View of Geezy Tees, St. George, Utah, July 20, 2022 | Photo by Truman Burgess, St. George News

Kelsch seized the opportunity to coach Hart in the postsecondary competition and Pace in the high school competition.

The three of them tenaciously worked through the Atlanta contest as they do normally in St. George, one shirt and design at a time.

The award ceremony took place in Atlanta’ State Farm Arena. Competitors, coaches, sponsors and parents watched as every competition’s victors took a turn on stage. SkillsUSA announced only the top three winners per contest before the ceremony, meaning Hart and Pace did not know if they placed first, second or third when they walked onto the massive stage.

“I was on the jumbo screen,” Pace said. “It was right up on my face, and I thought ‘I gotta do something or else I’ll embarrass myself up here.’ I was in my head.”

Pace won third place in the nation for the high school screen printing contest.

“I wasn’t disappointed, necessarily, but I knew I could’ve done better than third,” he said. “I was still super happy to be up there. There’s nothing I’d really regret.”

View of Geezy Tees, St. George, Utah, July 20, 2022 | Photo by Truman Burgess, St. George News

Hart won first place in the nation for the postsecondary age group.

“Now I can say I won the national competition,” Hart said. “I can confidently say I could go be a screen printer at any shop in the nation that’s hiring, just because of this competition. If I wanted to, I can call the judges up from the competition and they could be my references.”

Pace and Hart won about $3,000 in cash prizes for their national placements.

Hart will continue his studies at Utah Tech University, majoring in engineering.

Although he will soon serve a two-year mission in Little Rock, Arkansas, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Pace also mentioned how great the competition will be for his future.

“It was almost more important to get those (professional) connections than earning a medal,” Pace said. “Now I’ve been blessed with being able to talk with leaders of the industry.” 

Kelsch expressed his delight in seeing his employees and pupils place nationally.

View of Kyler Kelsch screen printing, St. George, Utah, July 19, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Kyler Kelsch, St. George News

“I was extremely proud, super, super proud of knowing and feeling that I have some of the best in the nation working for me,” he said. “Hopefully next year we can coach two new kids to come in and do the competition and just keep winning it year after year, because that competition is only going to get better and better.”

Kelsch also serves as a substitute high school graphics teacher, where he meets up-and-coming student graphics professionals. He met Dylan while substituting in a Desert Hills High School class. 

According to the press release of SkillsUSA’s competition, industry support for the Atlanta event was estimated to be over $36 million in donated time and resources.

SkillsUSA has over 340,000 students and instructors across every state and three U.S. territories. The organization’s educational programs cover 130 trade and service occupations, spanning middle school, high school and postsecondary levels.

Click here for additional information about the Utah chapter of SkillsUSA.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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