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Winning weekend for Cougar racing

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

Long Cane Middle School has a nifty new addition to the trophy case.

The Diverse Power Grand Prix was held on the LaGrange College campus on Saturday, with dozens of high-school and middle-school teams from five different states participating in the event that featured electric cars that were built, designed, maintained, and driven by students at the respective schools.

When the last race had been contested on Saturday afternoon, and the cars had been stowed away, the awards were presented in the different categories.

The final award announced was the big one.

The teams not only raced the cars on a track that meandered through the LaGrange College campus, but they were also judged on a presentation they made to a panel.

The overall team result was based on a combination of the presentation score, as well as the performance on the track.

In the middle-school division, no one did it better than Long Cane’s two teams.

Long Cane’s #999 team was first in the middle-school division in the overall standings, and it was presented with the Georgia Cup trophy, which will no doubt be proudly displayed at the school.

Long Cane’s #000 team was close behind in second place in the overall standings, giving the school a sweep of the top-two spots.

Long Cane’s #999 team finished first in the endurance race, which was based on how many times a car made it around the track during the allotted time.

Each team got two opportunities to race on Saturday, and each one of the sessions lasted 90 minutes.

Long Cane’s #999 team was second in the presentation division, and the school also won the pit-crew challenge on Saturday morning.

Gardner Newman took home a prize as well after its #92 team finished second in the kit division.

Gardner Newman and Callaway Middle School both had two teams entered in the race.

For Long Cane’s Cougar Strong racing team, it was more of the same.

Since the school formed a team in the fall of 2017 and began competing in GreenpowerUSA races, it has known nothing but success.

How effective the program has been, and how committed the students are, was on display on Saturday.

Adding to the enjoyment of the moment for the Long Cane students, it was the first ever Greenpower USA race to be held in Georgia, making Saturday an historic day for everyone involved.

“It’s the first-ever Green Power race in Georgia,” said Walker Graham, a member of the #000 team. “Honestly, it was pretty crazy. It was a lot of fun. Probably the most fun I’ve had in a Green Power race.”

Added Colby Hackley, a driver for the Long Cane #999 team, “It was awesome. For us to be able to have it here is amazing.”

Matthew Graham, a teacher at Long Cane, is the director of the school’s racing teams, and he has overseen a program that has made enormous strides in a short period of time.

A little more than a year after Cougar Strong Racing was created, Long Cane has an elite program that consistently competes for championships.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of the racing, and wanting to do well, but if you step back and look, I’m so proud of them,” Graham said.

Long Cane principal Chip Giles was also instrumental in getting the program up and running, and he was one of the key organizers for the Diverse Power Grand Prix.

“I’ve got to give credit to Mr. Giles,” Graham said. “He said I don’t want you to have to worry about the stress of putting the event on. You run the team, so he put together a lot of people that really pulled their weight and more.”

One of Long Cane’s teams showed off its ability to overcome adversity during Saturday’s race.

The #000 car had a joint break, and it was back on the course in less than five minutes.

“We had to scramble around and try to find a spare. We actually got it done and got out there in four minutes,” Walker Graham said.

While Long Cane’s program is firmly established as one of the best around, the Gardner Newman and Callaway Middle teams are making progress as well.

Gardner Newman’s #92 team enjoyed a successful Saturday, taking second place in the middle-school kit division.

The division was for teams that built the cars using solely what was in the kit without any modifications.

It was the second competition for Gardner Newman’s race team. First up was the Chambers County Grand Prix in October, and the team added a car for Saturday’s race.

Gardner Newman’s teams are Team Mustang and Team Viper.

“When you get to one of these races, you learn a lot more,” said Marilyn Huberdeau, director of the Gardner Newman Greenpower program. “Teams that come here to the races are very willing to help. We had a team from Challenger Middle that helped us with our white car. They helped us align the wheels, and change the chain because it was too tight. They’re really willing to help you with anything.”

Participating in the kit division allows newer teams an opportunity to compete without worrying about making modifications to the car.

Long Cane and Callaway Middle participated in the modified division.

“We didn’t make any changes to the car. We built it like it was,” Huberdeau said. “We want to try that out and get used to it. As we get used to it a little bit more, we can modify it.”

Huberdeau said she’s always on the look-out for new students willing to be a part of the team.

“We posted pictures on our Facebook page in October, and now we’re posting more for this,” she said. “We’re trying to sell T-shirts and trying to get out and let them know all about it and recruit some students. I don’t have as many seventh-graders as we’d like, so we want to get more seventh-graders at the next race.”

Julia Porter, who used to lead the robotics program at LaGrange High, heads the Greenpower team at Callaway Middle.

“It took a minute, but they’ve really become a team,” Porter said. “They work together. They almost don’t need us. They’re really learning. I’m very excited.”

Callaway’s teams dealt with their share of adversity on Saturday.

One of the cars had a tire problem, and Callaway also had a mechanical issue that had to be dealt with.

“You learn from all of your mistakes,” said Carson Talley, one of Callaway’s drivers.

Another one of Callaway’s drivers, Dylan Nation, saw first-hand what can happen when there’s a costly mechanical issue.

“We thought (the gear ratio) was different than it was and it overheated the motor, so we got kicked out of the race way too early,” Nation said.

The hope is that the next time out, the teams will be better-prepared for any situation that may arise.

“It’s fun, and it’s a great learning experience,” Talley said.

Porter felt Saturday’s competition was a major benefit for her team.

“It’s a wonderful event,” she said. “This track was very challenging. They learned a lot about tire pressure, and how it works for different tracks. They’ve made a lot of progress.”

DIVERSE POWER GRAND PRIX RESULTS

ROOKIE RACE

1st – Middle school – Gulf Shores #450

1st – High school – San Benito #83

PIT CREW CHALLENGE

1st – Middle school – Long Cane

1st – High school – Santa Rose

PRESENTATION

1st – Middle school – Discovery

2nd (tie) – Middle school – Long Cane #999

2nd (tie) – Middle school – Fort Payne #09

1st – High school – Bob Jones #01

2nd – High school – Bob Jones #05

ENDURANCE RACE

1st – Middle school – Long Cane #999

2nd – Middle school – Gulf Shores #450

1st – High school modified – Grissom #314

2nd – High school modified – Bob Jones #01

1st – Middle school kit – Gulf Shores #450

2nd – Middle school kit – Gardner Newman #92

1st – High school kit – Santa Rosa #24

1st – High school custom – Grissom #13

2nd – High school custom – Bob Jones #05

OVERALL

1st – Middle school modified – Long Cane #999

2nd – Middle school modified – Long Cane #000

1st – High school modified – Grissom #314

2nd – High school modified – Bob Jones #01

OF NOTE: For more photos, check out Facebook.com/LDNSports