Sedgwick County’s 2013 Kansas 4-H State Champion Livestock Skillathon Team included, from left, Blake Foraker, Jill Seiler, Kaci Foraker, Cody Shinkle and Coach Chancie Rose.

Four-H is a community of seven million young people around the world learning leadership, citizenship, and life skills.

Those qualities are exemplified by the Sedgwick County 4-H Meat Judging and Livestock Skillathon team members exemplify those qualities, achieving a new pinnacle of success in 2013.

In addition to what each member personally gained from the experience, the teams brought home two State Champion Team titles and three Reserve National Champion Team titles — a feat never achieved by a Kansas team.

“It was an absolutely amazing year,” says the team’s coach, Chancie Rose. “We’re all super proud of them. To accomplish what they did was a very big achievement.”

Coming off a successful 2012 season, the Sedgwick County competitors had earned the right to represent Kansas at the Western National 4-H Meat Judging Competition in Denver. Team members Blake Foraker, Logan McGinley and Kelsey Nolting took the Reserve Championship. Logan was second, Blake was third and Kelsey was ninth out of 41 in the individual contest.

In August, the Kansas State Livestock Sweepstakes contest, consisting of four separate competitions, was held in Manhattan. The Meat Judging team of Blake Foraker, Logan McGinley, Jill Seiler and Emily Nolting, won every division, going first, second, third and sixth respectively in the individual rankings.

Livestock Skillathon team members Blake Foraker, Jill Seiler, Cody Shinkle and Kaci Foraker narrowly beat out 26 other teams and earned the right to represent Kansas at the National Livestock Skillathon Contest. Blake Foraker won the Overall Sweepstakes Competition.

The team was Reserve National Champion at the American Royal National Meat Judging Contest. Blake Foraker finished as the High Individual. Logan McGinley placed fifth, while Jill Seiler was 11th overall and won the Pork Division.

The team also captured the Reserve National Championship at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville, Ky., competing against a field of 17 state champion teams and 67 of the top individual contestants in the country. Team members included Blake Foraker who was the third-high overall in the contest; Jill Seiler, third in Evaluation; Cody Shinkle, first in Evaluation; and Kaci Foraker.

Coach Rose, who is a business development manager for Cargill Beef in Wichita, has guided the program for the past five years. Starting from scratch, Rose and her team committed themselves to the experience.

“These are really quality kids,” says Rose who was a collegiate meat judging competitor at Texas A&M and later coached at Colorado State. They prepared long and hard — and they had some fun along the way. This is all about decision-making and communicating those decisions.

“And success comes from the confidence you gain in knowing that you really do have the ability to do well.”

Practice for the Sedgwick County 4-H’ers begins in February, studying a couple of times a month until competitions draw near. In July and August, practice is ramped up to about three times each week, learning in the classroom as well as going to visit the meat cases of Wichita area grocery stores.

“The guys behind the meat counters know us and they’re happy to have us,” Rose says. “One of them said he’d hire our kids on the spot — and I don’t think he was kidding.”

Most of the team members are farm kids, although a few live in the city. Members and their hometowns are:

•Blake Foraker, Halstead

•Kaci Foraker, Halstead

•Jill Seiler, Valley Center

•Cody Shinkle, Benton

•Logan McGinley, Wichita

•Emily Nolting, Mulvane

•Kelsey Nolting, Mulvane

•Mallory Emerson now resides in Greeley, Colo.

Some of the competitors have now moved on to college and Rose expects that some will compete at the collegiate level. Right now, however, she’s going forward with some of the remaining team veterans as well as some newcomers. Currently, about 10 Sedgwick County 4-H members are participating and they range in age from 11 to 18.

“The program has progressed and I think it will continue to do so,” she says. “The younger kids admire what the older ones have achieved and they want some of that success, too. We’d like to build a legacy that will continue — not just winning titles but also learning about the industry and developing skills that will be beneficial in the future.”

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