Each year the North American International Livestock Exposition, better known as the NAILE, is held in Louisville, Ky. It is here that the top 4-H Livestock Judging teams in the nation gather to compete in the National 4-H Livestock Judging Championship. This year the contest was held on November 18. The top teams from 32 states competed for the National title.
In June of this year, at the 4-H Conference at CSU, the Elbert County Livestock Judging Team, coached by Garrett Miller, became the 2008 Colorado State Champions. Team members were Curtis Doubet of Parker, Garrett Liss of Elbert, Dan Sewald of Kiowa, and Wyatt Taylor of Kiowa. The next step for the team would be to compete for the national title at the NAILE. There was fundraising and hours of practice ahead, but these young men set goals and were determined to put Colorado in the national judging spotlight.
On November 12, Coach Miller and the team flew to Indianapolis, packed into a rented Tahoe, and proceeded to cover 1,900 miles of the Midwest, visiting farms, ranches and universities in Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. They would be joined later by Coach Dean Link. They looked at Angus cattle at Prairie View Farm, and show steers at Caldwell's, both in Illinois. Kilmer Show Pigs of Indiana, and Ift Yorkshires of Illinois showed them market and breeding hogs. Hilltop Acres and Tree Lane Farms, both in Illinois gave them breeding sheep and cattle to look at. Purdue University in Indiana, and the University of Kentucky provided them with breeding and market sheep. The team traveled with the CSU judging team for a day, and did some workouts with them. They enjoyed all of the places they visited, but their favorite was the Shipshewana Livestock Market in Shipshewana, Indiana. While there, they looked at hogs and fat heifers, and met some of the Amish people that bring livestock to the market. Shipshewana is known as The Heart of Northern Indiana Amish Country. The boys were pretty impressed with the horses and carriages and the parking lots made just for them.
On the Saturday before the contest, they arrived in Louisville. The next two days would be spent visiting the University of Kentucky and practicing reasons, with a side trip to the Louisville Slugger Factory. On the 18th, the teams competed in the contest, and later listened to the critique. They left the critique knowing that they did well, but also knowing that many other teams had done well also.
The Awards breakfast was held Wednesday morning. Curtis Doubet placed Third in sheep and Sixth overall. Wyatt Taylor placed Second in swine, and Garrett Liss placed 18th overall. The team as a whole placed Fourth in sheep, Second in swine, 10th in beef, and Eight in reasons. All of the boys pulled their weight to get to this contest and to compete at this level. As they went through the awards from the bottom up for the top 10 teams, Colorado did not hear their name called in the first five. When Oregon, Maryland, and Illinois won Fourth, Third and Second, the Colorado team began to get excited. Dr. Celina Johnson of California State University, Superintendent of the Contest, and formerly from Colorado State University, announced that Colorado would be the 2008 National Champion 4-H Livestock Judging Team. There were some very proud coaches, team members, parents and siblings on hand to celebrate their win. This was what they had all worked so hard for. It would be a moment they will never forget.
With their Championship win comes an invitation to the 167th Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh, Scotland, which they hope to attend in June of 2009. They will be competing with teams from around the world. The Royal Highland Show is run by the Royal Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland and was founded in 1784 to promote the regeneration of rural Scotland. The show attracts more than 160,000 visitors making it the UK's premier agricultural show.
That afternoon, the team would continue their celebration at Churchill Downs, before returning to Indianapolis to catch their flight back to Denver. Coach Miller had this to say of the boys, "The members on this team have worked very hard since they were all 10 or 11 years old to earn this title. It is quite an honor to work with and represent Elbert County and Colorado with these young men who exemplify the 4-H motto " To make the best better."
The Elbert County judging team offers their thanks to all of the people and sponsors who helped make their dream a reality: The Colorado Livestock Association, Land O'Lakes/Purina, The National Western Stock Show, the Colorado 4-H Foundation, IREA-Bruff and Sandy Shea, Ced and Connie Woodard, The Freund Family, and The Miller Family/Kiowa Creek Ranch. We would also like to thank CSU, the Elbert County Extension Office for their support, and our families and fellow senior and junior teammates on the Elbert County team. A big thank you goes out to former teammates Libby Williams and Kirby Carpenter for their knowledge and encouragement.