OGALLALA, Neb. – A total of 536 high school students and teachers from 46 schools from across Nebraska visited Keith County this week to test their knowledge of rangeland management during the 63rd Annual Nebraska State Range Judging Contest. The attendance at this contest is the largest attendance ever at a Nebraska range judging contest surpassing by far the previous record of 450 students in 2013.
Each fall, students enrolled in agriculture or natural resources classes compete for top honors in range judging contests. Contestants compete as individuals and as teams in either the Junior or Senior Division. Six area contests are held in mid to late September in addition to the State contest. The contests are sponsored by the Nebraska Section Society for Range Management. Co-sponsors include Nebraska Extension, Natural Resources Districts (NRD), and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Volunteers from these and other natural resource agencies and groups assist local committees with organizing and conducting the contests. Over the last 10 years, attendance at area contests has averaged 1,100 students.
Range Judging Contests test the participants’ skills and knowledge of plant identification, ecological site identification and composition, rangeland conservation and grazing management. While studying for range judging competitions, students learn about one of Nebraska’s major land uses. Rangelands cover nearly 50 percent of Nebraska and approximately 60 percent of the United States. Even if these young contest participants do not pursue a career in rangeland or natural resource management, they will gain an understanding of a major natural resource that will be remembered throughout their lifetimes.
The Junior Division included 262 individuals and 63 teams. Sheridan Wilson from Arthur County took first place individual honors in the Junior Division. Olivia Fredrick, Amherst FFA placed second; Bridget Slagle, Sargent FFA placed third; and James Wetovick from Fullerton FFA placed fourth. Members of the first place junior team from Hayes Center are Ashton Erickson, Jakob Anderjaska, Jaycee Lapp and Avery Johnson. Members of the second place junior team from Arthur County are Sheridan Wilson, Emma Ohm, Kaden Wykert, and Gracie Wenzel. Members of the third place junior team from Imperial are Austin Bernhardt, Taylor Jablonski, Brooklyn Christensen and Kambree Meekse. Members of the fourth place junior team from Ord are Tye Bruha, Meo Hill, Alex Flessner and Treaven Scheideler.
The Senior Division included 243 individuals and 64 teams. Wesley Wach from Hayes Center took first place individual honors in the Senior Division. Mason Hale, West Holt FFA placed second; Rebecca Taylor placed third and Sam Wilkins placed fourth. Rebecca and Sam are both from Ainsworth FFA. Members of the first place senior team from West Holt are Mason Hale, Casey Coburn, Emily Burk and Caitlin Butterfield. Members of the second place Imperial FFA team are Brady Gittlein, Ryelee Christensen, Jose Medrano, and Katelyn Leibhart. The third place Sargent FFA team includes Justin Kemp, Alex Horky, Corri Slagle and Colten Brown. Members of the fourth place senior team from Ainsworth are Rebecca Taylor, Sam Wilkins, Henry Beel and Maria
Thirty-one adults also participated in the contest. Kevin Wetovick, Ag-Ed instructor from Fullerton placed first in the adult competition.