St. Ansgar High School student Joel Gonnerman won first place in a woodworking competition in Las Vegas earlier this month.

The competition, known as Turning to the Future, is held by the American Association of Woodturners with the intention of encouraging students to attain the highest level of skills in using the wood lathe.

Gonnerman competed in the Open category, in the High School division. He submitted photos of two works to the contest, both of which were accepted as top finalists, along with three other pieces from students across the nation.

After being judged on criteria such as design innovation, craftsmanship, and aesthetic, one of the pieces was deemed the winner and Gonnerman received a $500 cash prize and a tool set.

This was Gonnerman’s first non-school competition and his first time participating in Turn to the Future, as the age requirement is 16. The winning piece took Gonnerman between three and four weeks to make, Gonnerman said he typically comes up with the design in his head first, then sketches it on paper.

Next, he figures out the dimensions and the math behind making the piece, and then starts building.

“It was a lot of work getting all the stuff ready, bringing it out there, driving the 23 hours to get there,” Gonnerman said of the experience, “but I think it was pretty worth it.”

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