After hours spent sharpening their skills and perfecting their presentation, five Juneau-Douglas High School students surprised the competition - and themselves - by winning their division in a national home design contest in Atlanta.
The Juneau team overcame great distance and an unfamiliar problem - designing a Habitat for Humanity home in balmy Myrtle Beach, S.C. - and took first place among high schools at the competition, held last week at the International Builders' Show.
"I thought we were going to go down there and totally be blown away by the competition," said senior Sarah Croteau.
But with their polished presentation and innovative design, junior Taryn Bachman said, they discovered that "by far we were the best."
They were good enough, they believe, to have been competitive in the higher two-year college division.
The team, comprised of students from the JDHS National Home Builders Association Student Chapter, also included sophomore Zoe Olson, junior Jordan Sanders and senior Christina Perez. Their advisor is JDHS teacher Craig Mapes.
The students were the second-to-last group to go, which was nerve-racking but also provided the chance to critique the other groups.
"We had a good opportunity to preview the presentation styles and what kinds of questions the judges would be asking," Olson said.
After the presentation the judges praised the students' design, which included a cathedral ceiling in the living room to create a more open, bright and airy space.
"They said it was the first time they had seen the spacious concept," Mapes said.
For their efforts, the students received possession of a traveling trophy for the next year and $1,000. The money will be put toward the cost of next year's trip.
The group credited its success to the support of local builders, architects and school staff and administration who provided information and feedback for the presentation and support for the trip.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.