Routt County judging team places 5th in national event
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It is the best result that a livestock judging team from Routt County has ever posted at a national event, and you could hear the pride in coach Rod Willie’s voice this week as he recalled the team’s performance last month in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I think for our county, you know, it’s pretty prestigious,” Willie said of the Routt County team’s fifth-place finish at the 2019 National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest. “To be in the top five, that’s never happened before, so it’s a definite win for everybody in this community and everybody in the agricultural community. I think that’s really important.”
The team placed fifth overall with a score of 2,537 points. Kentucky finished first with a score of 2,567 slipping past second-place Illinois who finished at 2,563 and third-place Indiana with 2,556 points. Kansas was fourth at 2,543.
“This is the best we’ve done for our county, which is a super big accomplishment on its own,” said team member Kaetlyn Friedeman. “My goal is to keep pushing myself and to push the younger members. The next few years my focus is mainly to improve myself but mostly to help out with the younger kids and making them better.”
The top three teams, Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana, have all been invited to Scotland to compete in an international competition. The Routt County team — Grace Olinger, a freshman at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling; Jessica Diehl, a Steamboat Springs High School senior; Dyllan Spitzley, a Steamboat Springs High School junior; and Kaetlyn Friedeman, a Soroco High School junior — missed that trip by just 19 points.
Olinger placed 11th in the individual results, and Diehl was 14th. The top-20 athletes are named to an All-America team.
“They give you a belt buckle, and you also get the title along with it,” Diehl said. “It’s pretty cool considering only the top-20 kids in the nation get that honor.”
For Olinger, the honor was even more special since it marks the end of her 4-H career. She will continue to compete in livestock judging in college, however.
“It was kind of a last hurrah as far as my 4-H career is concerned. It was definitely good to be able to finish well enough to get that All-American deal,” Olinger said. “I was hoping to maybe do a little bit better, but I’m still definitely really excited that that ended up working out. It was definitely exciting.”
The contest also placed teams in the swine, goats and sheep and cattle classes. The Routt County team placed third in the swine division with 709 points and fifth in the sheep.
“Just to go into a contest of that caliber with a team that was competitive was rewarding,” Diehl said. “We got to see some extremely high-quality livestock in the contest, considering it was all pulled from the show, and it was the highest quality livestock I’ve ever seen in a contest and will probably ever see in a contest.”
Diehl said competing at the level and traveling with her teammates during the trip was a valuable experience.
“This entire trip was cool opportunity,” Diehl said. “It was great to go to a completely different state with different climate, and we got to see operations throughout Indiana and Kentucky. We got to see how they raise their livestock and operate their entire businesses, and it is so different from here.”
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