HARLINGEN — She did it.

Sadat Gutierrez, 18, has proven herself one of the best young masons in the nation, having placed sixth out of 28 competitors June 28 at the 56th annual National Leadership and Skills Conference. The SkillsUSA event was held in Louisville, Kentucky.

“I am really proud,” said Sadat, who just graduated from Harlingen High School.

Her instructor, Victor Santillan, seemed doubly proud.

“It’s the best I’ve ever had,” he said. “I’ve had a seventh, a young man who now owns his own business in the Dallas area. This young lady is awesome.”

Before learning the results, Sadat said she was a little sore from the competition because of having to lift so many blocks.

“My project was out of block and brick,” she said. “It was a double wall.”

Santillan explained further.

“It was about four feet tall,” he said. “It was block on the back, eight-inch blocks, it was a U shape. The front had modular brick.”

Contestants received the design just the night before, giving them just a little time to plan their strategy for completing it in six hours.

“We have a masonry banquet and they give them the drawings with all the instructors and the competitors,” Santillan said. “They get to see the project that is built and we talk it over with them. They explain it and the next day they build it.”

The competitors get six hours to complete the project. He said when he and Sadat learned the specifications, they mapped out the time. At one hour, she would have to be at one particular point in the project, at two hours another point, and so on.

“I thought her biggest obstacle was going to be time,” Santillan said. “She can build anything.”

Sadat plans to compete again at the college level during the next two years.

“I know I can do a lot better next year in post-secondary and hopefully next year I’ll place a lot higher than sixth,” she said. “That’s my goal for next year.”

Because she won SkillsUSA at the state level this year, she was awarded a scholarship to pursue construction at Texas State Technical College. She plans to follow up with that.