Glenbrook North engine team ranked 17th nationally

NORTHBROOK — Glenbrook North teacher and coach Ed Hajost is amazed by the types of students he’s had come out for the school’s engine team over the last two years.

The engine team’s goal is this: break down and rebuild an 8,000 – 10,000 horsepower engine as quickly as possible. GBN’s team has qualified for nationals two years in a row now.

“For most of the kids that do this at GBN, this is just a hobby for them; they are so academic-oriented. So I’m very fortunate when I have these types of kids come out for the engine team,” Hajost said.

He calls the incoming junior Don Steiner, for example, a “class act” with a work ethic like he’s never seen in his 10 years of coaching the team.

“I think it’s overused, but if I ever had to put a face to the phrase ‘giving 110 percent,’ it’s him,” Hajost said with a laugh.

If Steiner’s not in the automotive shop, Hajost said, he’s in the wood shop, machine shop, or working on his school work. He’s non-stop.

Incoming senior Mia Bakis is another student he highlights; despite having no knowledge of engines before taking his automotive class two years ago, he says, she’s quickly become proficient at understanding the front side of the engine, picking it apart and putting it back together.

That’s the part she handles—the head of the engine. Everyone has their own part of the engine to master.

“She came out for the engine team, caught on really quick, and has gotten really, really good at her job; in fact, she does her job better than most boys,” Hajost said.

Beyond being only one of the two girls on the team, Bakis is one of the few girls participating in the sport, in general. But this doesn’t phase her.

She laughed as she reflected on how her interest in the sport began—sophomore year, practically on a fluke.

“Something happened with my schedule where I had to be put into a class last minute, and there were two choices: Business and automotive. I chose automotive,” Bakis said. “I wasn’t too excited about it at first, but then I ended up loving it!”

To go from novice to national qualifier in a short couple of years is no small feat, Hajost said.

Out of more than 100 high school engine teams across the country, the GBN students will compete against the best 30-some teams in the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow National Championship in Las Vegas and Indianapolis in November and December. They qualified at the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Competition in Watervliet, Mich. on Memorial Day weekend, when they took apart and rebuilt a 140-piece Chevy 350 small block v8 engine in 29.44 minutes.

The qualifying time for nationals was 33 minutes.

GBN’s team is currently ranked 17th in the nation. The students have so far won a total of about $91,000 for the season.

Competitions simulate the part of a drag race where a car that’s just raced at its maximum speed for about a quarter-of-a-mile or less makes a 75-minute stop at the pit area to have its engine disassembled and rebuilt before its next run.

This does not happen at the Indianapolis 500. Those cars operate at about one-tenth of the horsepower.

“When they get into these cars that are producing 8,000 – 10,000 horsepower, which are the fastest cars in the world, it’s extremely critical that they take these things apart and put them back together,” Hajost said. “They are under such tremendous strain that they have no choice but to rebuild them every time they run them.”

Going from 0 – 60 miles-per-hour in as little as 2.3 seconds naturally causes parts to stretch and gaskets to wear; those that aren’t rebuilt properly before their next run can result in catastrophic engine failure.

Advancing to nationals alongside teams from technical schools is something to be proud of, Hajost says. Some of the teams can complete engine rebuilds in less than 20 minutes.

The key to success is dynamic between teammates, and the GBN team this year has a good one.

Because Hajost dedicates a substantial amount of his time to the team every year, he expects the same out of his students.

He admits that he’s is strict about who can stay on the engine team—he wants kids who are both serious about the sport of engine rebuilding and keeping their grades up in school. To falter from either is to remove thyself from the team.

“I started the year with more than three teams, and that quickly wittled down to two teams. After I took them to divisionals, it went down to one team,” Hajost said.

In addition to Steiner and Bakis, those who made the cut this year also included Michael Bazer, Sarah Jones, Thomas Kozel and Will Spears.

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