The Pine Grove FFA Land Judging and Homesite Team returned home last week with two national top-three trophies.
The local team consisting of Rachel Wyatt, J.D. Morris, Samantha Thomas, and Sophia Adams earned second place in the Homesite Competition and third place in the Land Judging Competition that was held near Oklahoma City, Okla. More than 700 FFA and 4-H members from 34 states competed in the 62nd annual National Land and Range Judging Contest; Turner Farms, near the town of Amber in Grady County, hosted the contest. Total registration for the event exceeded 1,000 with coaches, sponsors, officials, and group leaders in addition to the contestants.
Pine Grove FFA Advisor Annie Hall is thrilled with the performance of her team. She attributes their success to "all the work they did." She said the students were real troopers, particularly in the adverse weather during the event. The day of the contest it was 41 degrees. With the 25 mile per hour winds and rain and sleet, the windchill was 28 degree.
Pine Grove FFA Land Judging Team members, from left, Sophia Adams, Samantha Thomas, J.D. Morris, Rachel Wyatt, and Advisor Annie ?Hall pose with their national third-place award. After they arrived home, they also learned they took second place in the Homesite competition.
"So it was an endurance contest," said Hall. The team had rain gear and layered on warm clothes, "but we were still a muddy mess when we were done," noted Hall.
In addition to enduring the actual competition, the advisor said their practice beforehand was also grueling, but necessary. Since Oklahoma's terrain and soil is so different in West Virginia, it is essential that they practice there. All of the teams from West Virginia practice at the same location in Oklahoma. It obviously pays as eight of the top 10 teams were from the Mountain State. Nearby Tyler Consolidated High School took first in both competitions.
"It's completely different than West Virginia," said Wyatt. "It was a very good experience."
"We figured it up and we shot 126 slopes to practice," said Hall. "They walked almost 12 miles." They also examined 28 soil pits. This is where they actually get in and judge the earth - top soil and depth of the pit as well as textures. They use a feel test to determine sand, silt, and clay content and determine them by coarseness. The students then put the information together and fill out judging cards.
The Land Judging competition is where the students determine the best use of the soil for crops and other agricultural uses. In the Homesite event they determine how would the soil would effect a home's foundation, septic systems, lawn, and pond possibilities.
In all, the trip took 10 days: four, two each way, for driving; five for practice; and one for the actual contest. The time out of the physical classroom is not a problem for these obviously good students, said Hall. "The kids are really good about making up the schoolwork," she said. Two of the students, Thomas and Adams, are seniors; Morris is a sophomore; and Wyatt actually graduated from Valley High School last year and is attending nursing school at Salem Teikyo-University. Since she qualified for the team in July, she was still able to attend.
Individually in the Homesite competition, Morris placed first and Samantha Thomas was eighth. Morris also placed individually in the Land Judging competition, coming in at fourth.
"This is my seventh time going to Oklahoma, either as a coach, student, or helping coach," said Hall, who was an FFA students under Tyler FFA Advisor Leon Ammons.