South Summit High School students invited to national contest |

South Summit High School students invited to national contest

Douglas Greenwood, of the Record Staff

A vision of rural pastures, livestock and rolling fields lined with rows of crops may accompany the description of the Future Farmers of America. "A lot of people think FFA is just farming, which it’s not," said junior Lindsey Snyder. "It’s really leadership based."

Since it started, it has grown into a diverse program; changing its name to the National FFA Organization as a result of the widening scope of agricultural education.

Every October, the national convention takes place in Indianapolis. From Oct. 20-23, five South Summit High School students competed against nationally ranked contestants from across the country. Four competed as a team, and one individually.

The week-long trip cost roughly $1000 per student and was sponsored by the Summit County Council, Utah FFA, South Summit High School, Simpson Livestock and outdoor-goods retailer Smith and Edwards.

Four competitors made up the horse-evaluation team that triumphed in the state competition last school year. On the team are: Kyle Niesporek, who graduated in June, junior Carlee Dick and seniors McKena Woolstenhulme and Kylie Brown.

The team had spent two years working and studying together before they earned recognition as the best in the state, said FFA advisor Dusty Ercanbrack. Last year, they defeated 64 teams from across the state in order to qualify for the national competition.

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North Summit High School’s horse evaluation team consistently gave them some of the toughest competition throughout the year, according to Dick.

From among four horses, the team rates them in order by considering muscle, balance and structure, or how right the legs and hooves are. Team members then present their reasons to a judge.

"It’s all public speaking," Ercanbrack said.

In preparing for the national convention, the four studied Arabian horses in Herriman, watched videos and prepared by spending time after hours at the school.

"Every night we came here [South Summit High School] from 7:30 to 9," Dick said.

The time they put in paid off, as the team placed 16th among the 50 states. Some members also placed well individually based on their contribution to the evaluations.

Contestants receive gold, silver or bronze awards based on their performance. Only 15 teams received a gold rating. "I know we silver-rated, and we missed it by a couple points to make gold, Dick said."

"I think the hardest part was just trying to stay focused the whole time," Dick said. "We started off at 8 o’clock and didn’t end until 8 that night."

Once a team wins state and goes to nationals, they can’t continue to compete. Dick plans to pursue public speaking in the future.

Lindsey Snyder outscored her competition throughout the state last year as an extemporaneous public speaker. To prepare, Snyder collected articles covering current events to keep informed on topics around the world.

In the competition, she received a topic to discuss and only had 30 minutes to write and memorize a four-to-six-minute speech. After her delivery, she answered questions from a panel of judges.

"Half the competition is just being able to control your nerves," Snyder said. "I would practice speeches just so I could control my nerves, relax and handle myself properly."

Her topic at the national convention was urbanization and rooftop gardens, which dealt with using the gardens to educating people in the city about agriculture.

From among about 49 contestants, only four receive a gold rating and eight receive silver. Snyder earned a bronze award. "It was the best speech that I’ve ever given," she said. "It was a good way to end."