Students survey in prep for state
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
RUSSELL -- The qualifying event for area students for the FFA national land and homesite judging contest is next week in Hoxie at the area state contest.
FFA members from area schools got a good warmup for that meet Wednesday while participating in the Northwest District Judging Contest on some land just south of the local cemetery.
Longtime FFA adviser Curt Vajnar from Hays High School deems the district event a necessity for doing well at the area state meet.
"If you don't do this one, you will not be able to compete next week; you will not have a chance," said Vajnar, in his 24th year of teaching at Hays High.
Vajnar is speaking from experience; his team qualified for nationals three years ago and finished third in the nation.
The winner of Wednesday's Area Land Judging Contest at Hoxie will advance to the national contest next spring in Oklahoma City.
By the looks of the Northwest District contest results, it could be a close contest at the area state meet.
Norton won Wednesday's district team and individual titles in the senior division, barely edging out Hays High in both categories.
Junior Darcy Bainter was the individual champ, scoring 462 points for Norton, which finished with 1,227 team points -- four in front of HHS. Ellis was third as a team with a total of 1,167 points.
Hays High senior Jack Polifka was six points in back of Bainter as individual runner-up and led a group of five HHS judgers in the top 10.
However, only two of those were on the designated varsity team -- senior Hayden Schnuerle and junior Justin Hertel, who placed eighth and 10th, respectively.
Approximately 250 students from 13 area schools participated in the event on a pleasant fall day.
"This is great weather," said senior Quentin Kresin from Downs-Lakeside, who has participated in state livestock judging but isn't as experienced in land judging and was glad for the opportunity to compete.
"This is as good way for a lot of kids to participate," Vajnar agreed.
Other HHS judgers who were a pleasant surprise for Vajnar were juniors Lyle Russell and Andrea Buchholz, who placed seventh and ninth, respectively. Senior Dusty Barnes also tied Hertel for 10th but lost out for the top-10 spot on a tiebreaker.
Having that many students so close in ability is a nice problem, Vajnar said, giving HHS a lot of depth.
"This early, it's a guess who to put on the top six for varsity," he said.
In the land judging portion of the contest, students must rate the soil on texture, depth, slope and erosion while interpreting various soil factors such as surface runoff and giving recommended land treatments.
The homesite evaluation also includes rating soil factors.
"If you ever build a house, you should put it on a decent piece of ground," Vajnar said, "and these kids know more about that than a lot of people."
Norton had one other top 10 finisher besides Bainter in junior Johnnye Ruder, who placed sixth with a score of 397. The top three scores of varsity team members are used for team scoring.
Ellis' top scorers in the senior division were junior Allen Augustine, who was third with a 428 and senior Alicia Kroeger, fifth with a 407.
Ellis placed four in the top 10 of the greenhand division, led by freshman Dylan Haas' second-place finish, to win the team title of the beginners' division.
Stockton freshman Daylan Carlson scored 415 points to edge Haas out of individual championship honors and to lead the Tigers to a second-place finish in team standings.