4-H'ers win national awards
The National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colo. is a big deal to livestock breeders, agriculture industry leaders, and now to four Marion County 4-H club members.
This past weekend, 24 states and Canada sent top qualifying 4-H livestock judging teams to the national livestock judging contest, part of the national stock show.
Lauren Geis of Durham, Karl Riffel of Tampa, Nicholas Meyer of Marion, and Bryce Roberts of Hillsboro represented Marion County; and the things they saw and did at the National Western made a lasting impression.
“The whole atmosphere was just amazing,” Geis said. “I saw and judged some of the best livestock I have ever seen in my life there.”
Each team member evaluated 10 classes of livestock including beef, sheep, swine, and meat goats. They gave several sets of oral reasons for their placings in each category.
Geis said she went into the contest knowing she would be up against the best of the best in evaluating livestock, but she made it her goal just to keep it simple and pretend like it was just another contest.
“This was the first time I had ever been to a national contest, so it was a bit overwhelming,” she said. “I just had to keep telling myself, ‘Keep it simple,’ and that worked.”
Geis led the Marion County team and placed fifth in individual beef, seventh in sheep, and 12th overall. A contest official singled her out at the awards ceremony for recognition in giving a top set of sheep reasons.
As a team, Marion County 4-H took third in beef placings, seventh in beef reasons, and fifth team overall in beef. They were seventh in swine placings, seventh in swine reasons, and sixth in team overall in swine. The team placed ninth in overall placings, eighth in overall reasons, and eighth in the overall sweep.
“We worked out a lot beforehand,” Roberts said. “All the preparation really paid off. We gave numerous sets of reasons and really worked hard ahead of time.”
Roberts said the hardest part of the whole contest experience was the long, long day of judging.
“We left our hotel at 6:15 a.m. on Saturday, and didn’t get back there until 8 p.m.,” he said. “It was a really long day, hard to stay focused. But overall, it was a great experience.”
It was also cold at the contest located near the Rocky Mountains, just 15 degrees the day of judging activities.
“We were mostly inside, but it was a big open building,” Roberts said. “We had to wear our suit jackets, so it was cold, but we just focused on judging.”
Geis and Roberts, both high school seniors, said they planned to continue judging livestock in college next year.
“This is something I definitely want to keep doing,” Geis said. “I would love to get on a college team and judge nationals at that level someday. At least I hope I get a chance to try.”
Hutchinson Community College has offered Geis a full scholarship for livestock judging.
She said she was leaning toward a two-year commitment with that school because of her experiences being part of the Marion County team.
Roberts said he was undecided yet about college choice, but there was no doubt he also wanted to continue judging livestock if possible.
“I’ve always been involved in agriculture,” he said. “It’s like keeping alive a legacy. Judging is a lot of fun, and a good way to connect with livestock.”
Riffel and Meyer are both juniors in high school. They plan to continue practicing livestock judging with hopes of returning to state and national contests again next year.