Wessington Springs 4-H are National Range Judging Champions
BROOKINGS, S.D. – The Wessington Springs 4-H Range Judging Team were named national champions during the National 4-H Range Judging Competition held in Oklahoma City May 1-3.
“Bringing home a national title says a lot about the caliber of the youth judges, their coaches and those organizations who have supported land and range judging education in South Dakota for the last 30 years,” said David Ollila, SDSU Extension sheep field specialist, former FFA advisor and coach, today provides technical support for all the South Dakota range teams.
For more than 30 years, SDSU Extension together with the South Dakota Society of Range Management, South Dakota Soil Health Coalition and South Dakota Grassland Coalition have sponsored a two-day intensive soil and range judging training camp held each summer for 4-H and FFA youth ages 8 to 18.
Wessington Springs competed with more than 800 FFA and 4-H members from across the nation. The event was sponsored by the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and the Cheyenne-Arapaho agency North of El Reno, Okla.
Wessington Springs team members include: Noah Hainy, first place individual; Rylie Stevens, second place individual; Landon Wolter, third place individual and Isaac Koulousek, fifth place individual. The team’s coach is Craig Shryock.
The Meade County 4-H Land Judging team placed fourth overall. Team members include: Hunter Eide, Randi Tivis, Lauren Fritz and Kylie Shaw. The Meade County team’s coach is Brianna Larson.
The Kadoka FFA Range Judging Team placed 13th in the FFA Range division. Team members include: Stephanie Ring, Luke Keegan, Kaelan Block and Dylan Vandermay. The team’s coach is Brandy Knutson.
The McCook County 4-H Homesite team placed second overall. Team members include: Madison Stroud, placed first; Jacob Wagner, placed fourth; Abby Blagg and Kyle Schoon. The team’s coach is Terry Reickman. Homesite teams evaluate the land resource for suitability and issues when developing a commercial or private residence.
Other South Dakota teams which competed include: Milbank FFA, Wessington Springs FFA, Wolsey-Wessingtion FFA, McCook Central FFA, Rutland FFA, Lyman County FFA and Willow Lake FFA.
The FFA and 4-H participating teams qualified for the national event by placing among the top five teams in competitions held in their home states.
The first two days of the three-day event provided contestants opportunities to visit nearby practice sites to get acquainted with Oklahoma soils and plants with information available from range and soil experts.
“Youth are judging land and range in a completely different environment than what they are used to here in South Dakota,” Ollila explained. “Again, their accomplishments say a lot about the youth’s dedication and the investment of time from their coaches.”
The actual contest site remains a secret until contest day, so no one has an unfair advantage. Contestants and coaches gather on contest morning to find out the official contest location.
“These opportunities to expose students to the study of range and land management and provide students with skills and understanding of a valuable natural resource that drives the economies of rural America in the Great Plains,” Ollila said.
He added that many students will pursue careers which require the knowledge of soils and range resource management.
The award ceremony was held in the Great Hall of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
Also attending to provide technical assistance included: Dr. Sandy Smart, SDSU rangeland management Extension specialist, Ms. Emily Helms – USDA-NRCS state range conservationist, and Ms. Krista Ehlert – SDSU Extension range specialist.
The land, range and homesite evaluation opportunities offered in South Dakota are coordinated by members of the South Dakota section of the Society for Range Management.
These events are supported with technical assistance from personnel within the USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA Forest Service, USDI-Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, SDSU Extension, area ranchers and other range professionals.
Financial sponsors for this unique national educational opportunity include: South Dakota Section of Society for Range Management, South Dakota Soil Health Coalition, South Dakota Grassland Coalition, and the South Dakota FFA Foundation.
2019 qualifying events
4-H and FFA youth ages 14 to18 interested in participating in the National Land and Range Judging Contest have the opportunity to participate in qualifying Land and Range contests offered during summer and fall events as follows:
- South Dakota Rangeland Days: held June 18-19 in Redfield, S.D.
- South Dakota Soils Days: held June 18-19 in Redfield, S.D.
For more information about participating in 4-H or FFA range and land judging events contact your SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Program Advisor or your local FFA Advisor.