Weld County 4-H Livestock Judging Team wins national competition
Steve Gabel had a hunch the 2011 Weld County 4-H Livestock Judging Team could do some great things.
Apparently, after 20 years of leading the squad, he knows how to call it.
This year’s group took first place last Friday at the American Royal Association’s National Livestock Judging Competition in Kansas City, Mo., marking the first win at a national competition for the Weld County 4-H Livestock Judging Team during Gabel’s two-decade tenure as coach, he said.
“You could tell good things were going to happen. They really just worked their tails off to get ready for this,” said Gabel, an Eaton resident who operates Magnum Feedyards near Wiggins when he’s not spearheading the local youth livestock judging team.
The Weld County group topped the 26 other teams from across the country at the competition, all of which were either champions or reserve champions at their respective state livestock judging meets.
“It’s all about how the group looks down the stretch, and these guys were really coming together great as a team as nationals got closer,” he said. “I was confident we could do well.”
So were the four members and one alternate for the Weld County team, but that didn’t diminish the element of surprise when the group was named the winner.
“We just looked at each other, and it was like ‘oh my gosh, we did it,’ ” said Kyndal Reitzenstein, a Kersey resident who’s a senior at Platte Valley High School. “It was so exciting.”
Other team members were JayLinn Lohr of Gill, Wilson Ogg of Ault and Emma Vickland of Longmont, while Lane Greiman of Galeton was the group’s alternate.
In addition to Gabel, the squad is coached by assistants Christie Gabel, Cortney Hodgson and Gene Inloes.
The national contest last week consisted of 10 classes of livestock – judging the quality of the animals – and six sets of oral reasoning. The Weld County group took first in swine judging and in oral reasoning, while taking second in beef and third in sheep judging.
In the end, the Weld County group topped the second-place Oklahoma club by 25 points overall.
The four judges and one alternate that represented Weld County 4-H at the national competition were selected from the 40 members who started the season with the team in March. To prepare for the national competition, the group met on nights and weekends to practice its judging skills, meeting with producers and breeders while also attending events and shows, among other forms of practice.
The local squad qualified for the national competition by finishing second at the state livestock judging competition, held in conjunction with the Colorado State 4-H Conference this summer.
This year’s winner of Colorado state competition went on to a national competition in Louisville. During Gabel’s 20 years as coach of the Weld County 4-H Livestock Judging Team, the group has won the state competition six times, going on to take second place at the national competition in Louisville twice, he said
Gabel added that each state’s 4-H organization does things differently, some sending their champions to the Louisville competition and the second-place finisher to the Kansas City competition – like Colorado does – while others do the opposite.
Gabel said both are great competitions, but with all five of his judgers from this year eligible to compete in 2012, he’d like to see the team bring the state title back to Weld County next year and return to Louisville.
But for now, he just wants the group to enjoy its recent accomplishment.
And they are.
“It feels pretty great,” said Lohr, a junior at Platte Valley High School. “We worked pretty hard … but we owe a lot of it to coach Gabel. He and the other coaches did so much for us to get to this point.”