Marion team competes in national land judging contest

Three members of the Marion-Florence FFA chapter were among the 650 teenage FFA and 4-H members who competed in the 59th annual National Land and Range Judging Contest May 4-6 near El Reno, Okla.

Jessie Taylor, Nick Klenda and Eric Vogel qualified to compete in the national contest by winning the state contest back in October. Robin Taylor and Mark Meyer accompanied the students as sponsors.

During the event, the teams match skills in judging the adaptability of land for various purposes including farming, range management, and homesite construction.

During the first two days of the three-day event, contestants visited nearby practice sites to get acquainted with Oklahoma soils and plants with information available from soil experts.

The actual contest site remains a secret until contest day, so no one has an advantage.

Once contestants and coaches gather on contest morning to find out the official contest location, they travel to the site, with a police escort, in a caravan of more than 100 cars spanning several miles.

Contestants take turns examining the soil in pits and trenches dug especially for the contest. The skills the teens test at the contest involve principles that can be valuable in career fields such as environmental and agricultural management, natural resource conservation, home building and construction.

The event ended Thursday night with an awards banquet in the Great Hall of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

National championship trophies were awarded to team and individual winners in each category of competition: land judging, range judging and homesite evaluation. Each category included FFA and 4-H.

As a team, the Marion-Florence placed 61st. Taylor was the 45th-place individual and Klenda was 69th. Vogel had a sub-par day, according to Meyer, and the team was one player short of what was allowed.

?If we would have had a 4th participant, we might have been able to place a little higher,? Meyer said. ?I had another student planning to attend but was unable to go.?

MHS placed 45th in the Homesite contest and did not participate in the Range contest.

Meyer said he felt the experience was valuable.

?They were able to see a little different variety of soils than what we have in Kansas,? he said. ?They were also excited to get to compete at the national level in a contest and had the opportunity to meet and see students from all over the nation.?

Thirty-three states were represented at the national contest.

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