Russell FFA team representing state in Indianapolis
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
There is a possibility siblings Clayton and Jordan Moubry could be judging against each other next year in college.
But for this week, the twin brother and sister will join fellow seniors Lane Mai and Payton Stoppel in trying to bring a national championship to Russell High School.
The foursome earned the right to represent Kansas at the national FFA livestock judging contest in Indianapolis by winning the state championship last spring in Manhattan.
It was the first-ever state judging title in Russell High's 54-year history of FFA, and the team -- along with its sponsor, Jed Strnad -- has been busy preparing for nationals ever since winning state.
In fact, the team's success might rest as much on its sponsor's ability to learn along with his students.
"I've learned a lot," said Strnad, who grew on a crop production farm in Republic County and minored in crop sciences at Kansas State University.
He is in his eighth year teaching at Russell, where he said he found the strength of this particular group to be in livestock.
All four grew up raising livestock and participating in Russell County 4-H clubs, and the Moubrys' mom, Lisa, and Stoppel's dad, Mike, judged on the collegiate level at Colby Community College.
"I never judged livestock in high school, so everything I've learned is since I started teaching. Last year, I let them lead the class," Strnad said of the Moubrys, Mai and Stoppel. "I figured the best way to do something is to teach it."
That was one more experience that helped lead the foursome to the state championship in the spring. This fall, the team, in addition to studying former tests in preparation for nationals, worked out a day with two strong community college judging teams -- Hutchinson and Butler County (at El Dorado) -- and also went to Manhattan to work with a former judging coach.
"I think they're as ready as they will ever be," Strnad said.
All four said they would like to continue judging careers in college, and Jordan Moubry hinted she and her brother will be attending different schools next year.
But college plans will have to wait, until at least next week.
Russell's team left for Indiana last week in preparation for some pre-contest competitions and planned to practice on its own today in preparation for the national FFA workout day Tuesday. The official national contest days are Wednesday and Thursday.
More than a dozen other fellow FFA members from Russell, along with a couple of parents, are making the trip to Indianapolis this week for the National FFA Convention. And the livestock judging team hopes it has something to celebrate.
"Last year, we were the top Kansas team at several big contests and won our district level," Strnad said. "But everything has to happen just right, at just the right time."
Timing, along with his team's depth and balance, has Strnad optimistic about some positive results this week.
"The ability of this group is rare," he said, adding "on any given day, it could be any of them at the top. They are all evenly talented."
For example, Payton Stoppel was the state individual champion last spring. But had it not been for one judging miscue, Strnad said, Mai also would have been right up there in the top two or three and might have placed first. As it was, Clayton Moubry helped Russell dominate the state team competition with his 11th-place overall finish, including a first-place finish in the reasons category.
"We may not have the top livestock judges in the country, but we have four that might be considered in the top 50," Strnad said. "You need three kids to score well in state, but at nationals, they score four. I'm looking forward to see how the depth of talent works for us."