Routt County Senior Livestock Judging Team takes home 4th at national contest
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Routt County Livestock Judging Team can spot a good hog. That skill — along with team members’ eye for high-quality cattle, goats and sheep — allowed them to bring home the bacon by earning fourth place overall at the American Royal 4-H Livestock Judging Contest in October in Kansas City.
“I think it’s just tremendous for a group of young kids like that to compete at a national level and come out in the top four teams,” Coach Rod Wille said. “They did a great job of representing Colorado, representing their own county and their own 4-H program here. It’s something that the community should be really proud of.”
The four-person team — including high school students Jessica Diehl, Kally May, Emmitt Meyring and Dyllan Spitzley — took home third at the Colorado state competition in June. They represent Routt County’s Senior Livestock Judging Team, but there are about 30 kids age 8 to 18 on the Routt County team. The senior team spent about a week in Kansas City competing and exploring livestock operations in Missouri, Kansas and Iowa.
Routt County Senior Livestock Judging Team:
• Fourth: high team overall
• Fourth: high reasons
• Fourth: high hogs
• Fifth: high beef
Individual team members:
• Jessica Diehl: fifth overall in reasons, 14th overall individual
• Kally May: 18th overall individual
• Emmitt Meyring: eighth overall in hogs, 21st overall individual
• Dyllan Spitzley: 28th overall individual
Livestock judging competitions require team members to score cattle, swine, sheep and goats against a standard. Each competitor must then justify to judges why he or she gave the animals those scores.
Wille said the contest is an individual and a team sport. Each competitor earns points for correctly scoring the livestock. These scores are combined into a team score. The lowest individual score on a four-person team is dropped to determine a team score. Both individuals and teams can place in livestock judging contests.
The livestock in the Kansas City contest were show livestock in competition at the American Royal, said Jessica Diehl, a member of the Routt County Senior Livestock Judging Team. The competition was fierce, she said.
“It’s different than everything that we’ve been to before because you can just tell that everybody there knows what they’re doing,” Diehl said. “Everybody there is there for a reason. They want to do just as well as you do, and they know what they’re doing. That was just something that was cool, and the atmosphere was really competitive.”
Routt County’s team was one of the younger ones at the competition, Wille said. They competed against teams made up of high school seniors and even those who have already started college.
“We have sophomores, juniors and one senior on the team, so we’re really young,” he said. “I think we have a very bright future ahead of us with those kids.”
Both Wille and Diehl said kids learn a lot more in livestock judging than what a good animal looks like. Diehl said she joined the team six years ago because she wanted to come out of her shell. She said she’s grown as a public speaker.
“Being one of the older members now on the team — I started off being really young — you learn how to teach younger kids how to do it, and you learn how to pass on information that you’ve learned to them,” she said. “I’ve also just learned how to talk to people, how to defend my thoughts and what I’m thinking.”
It also benefits kids in connecting them to others in livestock judging and the agricultural industry.
“Those kids are going to do great things,” Wille said. “A lot of them will go to college and get scholarships and judge on collegiate judging teams.”
Diehl hopes to. She’ll continue judging this year and next. After she graduates high school in 2020, she plans to continue judging at a junior college.
She said the moments she’ll remember most from the competition in Kansas City are the good laughs on the van rides with her teammates.
“I’m so proud of our Kansas City team along with all of the juniors,” she said. “We worked really, really hard, and it’s really cool that we got to do such an amazing thing.”
The group still has its sights set on a top placement at nationals, which would allow them to compete in the Royal Highland contest in Scotland.
“Our goal has always been to try to get to Scotland,” Wille said. “We were really close this year. … We’re getting closer.”
To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.
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