Routt County livestock judging team carries on winning tradition |

Routt County livestock judging team carries on winning tradition

The Routt County 4-H livestock judging team was sidelined last year due COVID-19, but this summer, a young group of competitors carried on a long-running tradition of top finishes at the 2021 Colorado State Livestock judging competition in Brush.

“The kids change so much from the time that they start when they’re 8 or 9 years old to when they’re 18,” said Rod Wille, who has coached the team for 25 years. “This is amazing, and the growth potential that it gives them, that’s the biggest part.”

This year’s four-person team included Olivia Rossi, Kayla Rossi, Levi Allen and Emmitt Meyring, and Kaetlyn Freideman, Josie Meyring and Tim Bedell also went to the state competition but competed as individuals.

In livestock judging, the competitors must evaluate and rank animals in the first part of the competition. Those classes include beef, sheep, swine and goats. The second portion of the contest involves officials selecting certain classes and participants presenting the reasons for why animals were ranked in a particular order. Points are awarded, and the team with the most points at the end of the event wins.

“I think the most important part of the competition is the reasoning part,” Wille said. “One of the best things about these competitions is the confidence that these kids use to defend their decisions. They made the decision on how to place that class, but when they have to go out and give a great set of reasons for their decision, that gives them confidence in every aspect of life.”

It’s a long day for competitors.

“It’s a pretty long day,” Emmitt Meyring said. “You start off judging 12 different classes, and each class is made up of four individual animals that are numbered one through four. Then you select them based on set of ideal traits that we’ve learned.”

Meyring said livestock judging runs in his family.

“I was influenced by my dad who took part in livestock judging in college,” said Meyring, who will attend Hutchinson Community College in Kansas next fall to be a part of its team. “It’s so challenging and so frustrating at the same time, but when you finally succeed, it’s really, really satisfying.”

This year, Weld County won the state competition and was named grand champion, but a young Routt County team also found success winning the reserve champion title. The team also placed third overall in reasons, third overall in beef, third overall in swine and sixth overall in sheep. Rossi placed fifth overall, and Freideman was the sixth overall individual.

The team’s success earned members an invitation to the American Royal livestock judging competition in Kansas City, Missouri, in October.

The Routt County team has been to the North American International Livestock Expo in Louisville, Kentucky, twice, including a trip in 2019. The team also has been invited to the National Western Stock Show in Denver one time.

This year’s team competed in seven livestock judging events across the state and in Nebraska. Several members of the team also competed as individuals in Wyoming, and several went to livestock judging camps in other states. The team picked up wins in Weld County and Durango, finished second at Hotchkiss and placed fifth in a large event hosted by the University of Wyoming.

“When you go to Louisville for that final contest, and that’s the biggest one, you want to have your kids at the best that they can possibly be,” Wille said. “We’re such a young group, and we’re not quite there yet, but as we mature and these kids get older, you know, seniors in high school, I think that’s when we’re going be our best. So I’m really happy with how we did, and for us, this was just another step in the process to get to where we want to go.”

Meyring competed in the American Royal in 2018, and because of a rule that only allows competitors to take part once, he will not be going this year. He said the Routt County team will need to choose an alternate to fill his spot, but that will not stop him from cheering for his teammates.

“Nothing happens without work,” Meyring said. “The contest they’re going through is really, really long, and the only way to get ready for that is to work hard. That would be my advice for them, and I know they are going to be great.”

Former members earn colllege honors

Grace Olinger, a sophomore, and Jessica Diehl, a freshman, earned top honors this season as part of the livestock judging team at Northeastern Junior College. (Photo by John F. Russell)

Former Routt County 4-H livestock judging team members Grace Olinger and Jessica Diehl, have continued to find success in judging at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling.

Olinger, a sophomore in her final year at the community college, was named an All-American after taking her place among the top-15 junior college competitors in four national level competitions and maintaining a high GPA in the classroom. She is headed to South Dakota State next year to finish up her degree, as well as be a part of the livestock judging team there.

“I had a really good fall and a pretty decent spring,” Olinger said. “But the competition this year was pretty stiff, so I wasn’t exactly sure if I would be able to make it since it’s only the top-15 that earn All-American honors. So yeah, I was pretty surprised.”

Diehl, who was a freshman this year, was named the team’s top freshman and is looking forward to following in Olinger’s footsteps.

“I’m trying to be an All-American,” Diehl said. “The way it works is half of it is based on your academics and half of it is based on your judging performance. I’ve been trying really hard with my academics, and hopefully, that will keep me in the running for All-American when it’s mixed in with my judging performance this next year.”

Diehl said Olinger has set a great example that she is hoping to follow.

“I grew up with Grace judging here in Routt County, and getting to watch her grow and growing in my own way at the same place has been really, really fun,” Diehl said.

Olinger is also looking forward to the future, and said judging has been a big part of her success.

“It’s a really good way to make connections with people in industry, so that’s one of the biggest things,” Olinger said of judging. “It’s also definitely helped me as far as my speaking ability and ability to communicate with people. … It’s been really helpful in a lot of different ways.”


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