For the Wildcat Extension District 4-H livestock judging team, a supreme reliance on one another and focus on a common goal has brought invaluable experiences and everlasting camaraderie.
Teammates Andrew Anderson, Caney, Dalton Flatt, Liberty, Erin Falkenstien, Bartlett, and Rhett Newby, Coffeyville, all bring diverse backgrounds in different species to the table. Bolstered by coach Keith Martin’s sage advice, the homegrown team is headed to Scotland to represent Kansas at the Royal Highland livestock judging contest.
The team’s exceptional performance at the Western National Roundup competition, held in conjunction with the National Western Stock Show in January qualified them for the opportunity to compete internationally and to tour Scotland, Ireland and England. Their achievement was hard-won and came after judging 12 classes and giving six classes of reasons.
“The team really came through under pressure at Denver,” Martin said. “It was a very, long hard day for them but they stayed focused and pulled through when it counted.”
The students each have their own mantra for succeeding when the going gets tough and their own unique hacks like chewing gum to stay focused and switching candy flavors between classes in order to distinctly remember each group when the day gets long.
Andrew Anderson, the high scorer at the Denver contest, said his best judging advice comes in handy on the worst days.
“Everyone judging has bad days and good days, the important thing is not to give up,” Anderson said. “You have to believe you’re a great livestock judger, even after you have a difficult contest.”
The students said they are aware of the importance of working together to ensure the team succeeds, regardless of an individual’s bad day.
Resilience is a learned trait for this team, especially since most of them have spent almost ten years absorbing the ins and outs of livestock. Oldest member and designated “mom” of the team, Erin Falkenstein said her best judging advice pushes her forward.
“I’ve always been told I have to be tough to judge livestock,” Falkenstien said. “Judging is way too much hard work to not love it.”
Team member Dalton Flatt said the team’s success is not just a result of one month or even one year of hard work, but rather a result of long-term commitment.
“Going into a competitive event like this I have to remember this is a long-term process,” Flatt said. “There are no instant rewards.”
Lifelong commitment and the will to win got the southeast Kansas team through the national competitions, but their journey is far from over. The next challenge is the race to raise the funds to travel overseas, almost $20,000, in just six months.
The team’s largest fundraising opportunity will be March 11 at the Labette County High School Cafeteria in Altamont. The event will have a donation-based meal, along with both silent and live auctions, as well as a livestock themed quiz bowl.
The livestock quiz bowl will allow teams of four to five people to answer questions over six rounds of play. The teams can work together to answer the questions, which can cover anything about livestock, and win prizes.
In addition to the live event in March, the team is also hosting a raffle for two half hogs or one half beef. The entire team is selling tickets for the raffle and the drawing will occur May 1.
The team has worked to represent southeast Kansas on a national and international level, as individuals who know livestock like no one else. Coach Keith Martin said the team’s success is not at all coincidence.
“The bottom line is, these are good young people and great livestock judges,” Martin said. “They’re tough and they have the will to stick with it through the end.”
Martin said the students are continuing the tradition of excellence in Livestock judging in the Wildcat Extension District, in the line of the 1988 Labette County Livestock Judging Team who won first place at the National 4-H Contest in Louisville and attended the Royal Highland Contest.
The momentum of success is invaluable to this program, and big wins encourage more 4-H’ers to participate, the same way many of the current students’ parents were encouraged to judge following the 1988 win, Martin said.
“These individuals provide a tangible example to younger kids for what’s possible if you devote yourselves to these kinds of projects,” Martin said. “This is a huge boost for the 4-H judging program in this district and we are expecting to continue the tradition of success. £