SAN ANTONIO. With the final test scores in hand after two days of intense competition, the 2016 Rush Technician Skills Rodeo came to a close with Lucas Manlief of Rush Truck Center-Indianapolis named “all-around champion” and taking home total winnings (including cash and prizes) adding up to $17,100.
Manlief also won first place in the international division – a win that accounted or $4,000 of his cash prize purse – and took home the championship trophy in the medium-duty category as well.
Jonathan O’Brien from Rush Truck Center-Orlando South snagged the championship trophy for the Parts division, with total winnings $10,250, while Erick Lincoln from Rush Truck Center-Albuquerque badged the heavy-duty champion trophy and total winnings of $13,000.
Some 1,100 technicians within the Rush Truck Center (RTC) network – a division of Rush Enterprises – took 1,800 online exams to try and qualify for this year’s rodeo, the company said.
Only 165 made it to the semi-final round, held here over two days at the Henry B. Gonzalez convention center.
Three years ago, RTC created a “Rising Stars” division reserved for Level One and Two technicians as a way to help retain younger workers. This year, John Malone with Rush Truck Center-Lake City took home the top prize of $6,700, with second place and $6,300 going to Nathaniel Walder with Rush Truck Center-Dayton.
“I was shocked; this is the first year I’ve competed. I’ve only been with the company less than a year,” Walder told Fleet Owner. “The written tests were extremely intricate and the hands-on testing was very tough.”
Matthew Pogue with Rush Truck Center-San Antonio – the 2010 medium-duty grand champion who won $4,000 for placing first in the Hino medium-duty bracket this year – noted that in past years he tried to prepare for the competition but now instead “tried to go in with an open and calm mind” so no “pre-conceived ideas” get in the way to solving the hands-on truck problems.
“Sometimes you are familiar with a problem; sometimes you are not. You really never know what you are going to face,” he told Fleet Owner. “The only way to truly prepare is to know everything and that is impossible.”
And though he didn’t win a trophy, Walder said the rodeo experience “was great,” especially the chance to meet and be photographed with retiring NASCAR driver and team owner Tony Stewart, whom Rush Enterprises has sponsored for several years.
“That will be my profile picture on Facebook shortly,” Walder noted.