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He'll cross the next bridge - when he builds it.

Byline: FACES AND PLACES by The Register-Guard

Name: Zach Lemonds

Age: 17

School: Thurston High School, where he's a senior

Claim to fame: He's the three-time state champion in the Professional Engineers of Oregon High School "Holly Cornell" Model Bridge Building Contest, held this year on Feb. 26 at Oregon State University. The balsa wood bridges must be built to very particular specifications in terms of span, clearance, length and width, and can weigh no more than 25 grams.

The bridge with the highest structural efficiency - the one that carries the heaviest load in relation to its weight - is the winner. This year, Lemonds took first place with a bridge weighing just 12.9 grams that held 65 pounds before collapsing. He took second place, too, with a slightly heavier bridge.

Building bridges: He spends a lot of time on it, both in Greg Proden's architectural drafting class, which takes on bridge-building as a class project, and at home. In preparation for last month's competition, he built 10 bridges, plus the two he took with him for competition. Each one took at least eight hours to complete, he said. He sinks into deep concentration while he's working, he says. "I'll come out and it's dinner time, and I think it's lunch," he says.

Key to success: Hard, painstaking work. "It's a lot of design and testing, a lot of research and development," says Lemonds, who has loved building and designing things since he was a small child. By the time he's ready to take a bridge to competition, he has streamlined the design to make it as strong and efficient as possible. Also, he said, "I'm really competitive, I'd definitely say that."

Going national: Lemonds took fifth place in the nation among 100 competitors when he attended the contest as a sophomore.

If he can raise the money, he'll attend the national competition in Chicago next month, where he hopes to finish on top (anyone interested in helping him get there, by the way, can donate through Greg Proden at Thurston, 744-5143).

Precious cargo: He'll cover his bridge carefully in bubble wrap and carry it in a metal case, keeping it with him the entire time he's on the plane. So far, he says, none of his bridges has ever been damaged before competition.

Family: Father, Tom Lemonds, who owns a local nursery; mother, Tammy, who works at Albertsons; brother, Seth, 19, who works at their father's nursery.

A full plate: As if school and bridge-building weren't enough, Lemonds also logs at least 40 hours a week working at the family nursery. He's eager to save enough money for college. "I don't know how I manage it, but I do," he says.

Pastimes: He doesn't have much spare time, but he likes to hang out with his friends. Sometimes they go bowling, and lately they've been playing a lot of poker - Texas Hold 'Em especially.

Volunteer work: He volunteers when he can in the short-stay ward at McKenzie-Willamette Hospital.

Thoughts on school: He likes all his classes, and his grades are "OK - not stellar."

College plans: He hopes to study mechanical engineering at OSU.

Dream job: A professional engineer, perhaps in the design of buildings or even electronics. He has no plans to leave Oregon, which he calls the best state in the country. He likes its moderate weather.

Car: A dark blue, 2003 Hyundai Tiburon that he bought new with his own savings. "I've been working since I was in elementary school," he says.

Favorite television: Comedy shows, including `Saturday Night Live' and `Mad TV.'

Favorite music: "All kinds" - rap, new rock, old rock, jazz, country.

Hero: His father, whom he admires for his work ethic, intelligence, sense of responsibility and multiple talents. "I haven't found one job that my dad's not good at," he says.

- Anne Williams


Zack Lemonds, 17, a senior at Thurston High School, has taken state awards for his bridge-building skills. He hopes to attend the national competition next month in Chicago.
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Title Annotation:Schools
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 14, 2005
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