FFA Judging Team competing at National Convention

Woonsocket team earned trip to Louisville with first place state finish


THE Livestock Judging team: Advisor Shane Gross, Nathan Linke, Shay Swenson, Aaron Linke, Riley Schmiedt, Drew Olinger and Jonathan Linke.

The Woonsocket FFA Livestock Judging Team is in Louisville, Ken. at the National FFA Convention this week, charting a new course in the history of the Woonsocket FFA program.
The journey started this past April when a young team of sophomore Jonathan Linke, eighth graders Aaron Linke and Riley Schmiedt and seventh grader Nathan Linke, won the Livestock Judging Career Development Event (CDE) competition at the SD State FFA Convention in Brookings, competing against mostly high school age teams.
The win qualified the team to compete in the national competition at the National FFA Convention and recorded the first time ever that a Woonsocket FFA team has won the State FFA contest in a CDE in any event area.
Team Captain Jonathan Linke recalls the fun and excitement of the state win.  “At the State Convention awards ceremony, I had been called on stage to receive the fifth place individual award in Livestock Judging and heard Riley’s name announced in 12th place. As I was leaving the stage, I heard our team being called to the stage as one of the top three,” he said.
“They announced third place and it wasn’t us so we were positive we must have received second. When we were not announced as the second place team we looked at each other in disbelief,” Jonathan recalls. “We had no expectation of winning with such a young team and in just our second year of competing in this CDE area.”
Woonsocket High School is one of the few in the state who offers the opportunity of FFA membership and competitions at the junior high level, giving them a jump start at leadership and CDE skills.  Junior high students are not eligible to compete at the national level.  Consequently, Aaron and Riley became eligible as freshmen students this fall, but Nathan was still ineligible.
To fill the empty spot, other FFA members were given the opportunity to apply for the team.  Shay Swenson and Drew Olinger competed in a “judge-off” in livestock judging and Drew edged out Shay with close scores to round out the four-person team.
During the state competition, the Livestock Judging CDE consisted of nine parts.  The team judged two beef classes, two sheep classes and two swine classes, placing each class of four.
Team members each gave oral reasons on two of the placing classes with production data utilized in the placing, answered five questions on one placing class for each species, and completed a 25-question written exam.  Finally, they completed a keep/cull team activity where they were required to select the four best animals from a class of eight ewes, using performance data and visual appraisal.
The team has spent many hours preparing for the national competition, visiting area farms and judging livestock classes of beef, sheep, swine and goats. Thanks to Larry Ogle, Henry Linke, Jim and Audra Scheel, Jim VanDyke, Gerald Kraft, Janet Maeschen and Rock Creek Livestock (Kevin, Helen & Weston Geppert), who let the team visit their farms to practice judging.
The official judge and coach for the “judge-off” was Chris Nelson of Brookings, and Myron Sonne provided many hours of guidance and coaching throughout the preparation and practice sessions.
The team has also spent class time with FFA Advisor Shane Gross reviewing online resources and working as a team to develop their skills. They judged multiple classes of livestock from online sources similar to what they will see in the national event, learned animal science terminology and facts and utilized technology to make production and management decisions.
At the National FFA Convention contest, the team will judge eight classes including beef, sheep, swine and goats, give four sets of oral reasons, complete a written test, complete three keep/cull selection classes and complete two team activities.
While at the Convention, the FFA members will also attend sessions, the Career Expo and other events. The schedule also allows for some fun events including touring the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory, the Churchill Downs/Kentucky Derby Museum and attending the World’s Toughest Rodeo.
Jonathan is proud of the effort that his team has put forth to prepare for the contest and feels they are ready to do their best. “As we started fall practices, we were all placing the classes similar and were doing well on correct placement.  However, it was obvious that we needed work on the difficult part of livestock judging, giving oral reasons that explained why we placed the classes in that order,” he said.
“Being able to give good oral reasons is the key to winning contests because of the number of points earned in this area. We went to work, with the help of Myron Sonne and Weston Geppert, to improve and refine our oral reason skills. We have all improved and have the potential to have high scores in this area at the national level.”
Jonathan adds, “We are excited for this week at Nationals and appreciate all the help and support we have received in our preparation.”
Mr. Gross had this to say about competing at Nationals:  “These boys have put in hours upon hours of work preparing.  I have met few others so dedicated to excellence and success.  They will definitely make their community and chapter proud.”

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