Grant Helms came back from Louisville, Kentucky a national winner in masonry.

Helms, a rising senior at West Rowan High School and a Mount Pleasant resident, qualified for the National Leadership and Skills Conference through SkillsUSA by winning the state competition. Along with clenching the state title, he also achieved a perfect score, which instructor Rodney Harrington said was a first in history.

He then continued on to beat out over 30 competitors to place first in the nation in Louisville last month.

“I was really excited,” Helms said of the win. “I love it (masonry). I love being able to stand back at the end of the day and say ‘I built that.’”

The national conference was held June 24-29 and Helms had to take a written test and was challenged to complete a project in just six hours. Harrington said the project was drawn up by masons in the industry and included two different colors of brick and block.

About halfway through, the competitors took a break to eat lunch. As Helms scanned the other projects, he said he felt like he had a good shot at winning.

Harrington thought the same.

“Looking at his compared to most of the others I saw, his was more polished and more professional to me,” Harrington said. “He’s not just a good all-around kid as far as brick-laying. His work ethic is outstanding and he’s an extremely smart kid too. He’s a 4.0 kid.”

The brick-laying talent runs in Helms’ family. He works with his father at Helms Masonry Inc. in Concord and began competing in SkillsUSA as a sophomore.

And now with this nationals win under his belt, he has his eyes set on coming back and taking the prize again next year. He said one day he hopes to compete in the WorldSkills Competition.

“Our plan is to repeat. North Carolina is a super, super competitive state when it comes to masonry. There’s a lot of good masonry in this area,” Harrington said. “North Carolina is known for winning. I’ve been to several competitions and most of the time they go, ‘Oh no, there’s NC.’ It’s a reputation we are proud of and we work hard to keep.”

Another West Rowan graduation, Ashton White, also placed first in the postsecondary masonry competition. White is now a student at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College and this was her second nationals win. Last year she was the first woman to win the national competition, and this win made her the first to win back-to-back.

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