Cheylin students headed to nationals
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Max Keltz grew up in a small town in southeast Kansas and qualified for a national FFA contest.
So he's not surprised when one of his teams at Bird City-Cheylin accomplishes that feat.
Cheylin, a small Class 1A school in the far opposite corner of Keltz's hometown of Mound Valley, qualified for next spring's National Land and Homesite judging contest by winning last week's 11-team northwest area state contest at Hoxie.
Led by the individual runner-up finish of senior Stephanie Busse, Cheylin outscored Ellis in a close contest, 1,157 to 1,136, ending Ellis' attempt at making it two in a row after qualifying for nationals last year.
Claiming first-place individual honors was Hays High School junior Justin Hertel with a score of 442 -- 38 points ahead of Busse.
Cheylin has an enrollment of 42 in the high school and more than half of those students (22) are in FFA and seem to fare well against much larger schools.
"Sometimes a smaller group is better to work with; you can get more one-on-one then," said Keltz, Cheylin's FFA adviser who attended a 4A school in Labette County with an enrollment of more than 500 and was one of approximately 120 FFA members in his school.
It will be the fourth time Keltz will be making the trip to nationals in Oklahoma City, the site of the annual land and homesite judging event since 1952.
He qualified as a junior in high school in the early 1980s and has taken two other teams to nationals in his 25 years at Cheylin.
"This is icing on the cake," Keltz said. "I really enjoyed my ag classes in high school, and this gives kids (the chance) to learn how to win and lose and hopefully take something with them after they graduate.
"It gives them another way to compete," said Keltz, who also has coached a myriad of athletic teams during his time at Cheylin.
Finishing in third place in team scoring at Hoxie was Norton, with a score of 1,115, followed by Hays High with a 1,075.
The top four teams also dominated the top 10 individual spots.
Joining Hertel in the top 10 for Hays High were junior Sheldon Sulzman in sixth place and three students who swept the last three top-10 spots -- juniors Dakota Zimmerman, Breanne Kruse and Andrea Buchholz.
However, out of that entire junior group, only Buchholz was designated as part of the team to be counted in scoring on that particular day. HHS FFA adviser Curt Vajnar picked the team for scoring at the area state competition based on how the students performed the week before at a district meet at Russell.
"Some of the others didn't have a good day (at Hoxie)," Vajnar said. "That happens."
Norton was led by the 3-4 finish of juniors Bailey Ambrosier and Cristine Nelson. Finishing out the top 10 was Ellis junior Allen Augustine in fifth place and Cheylin senior Kenan Reeh, seventh.
Keltz said he plans to take six students to the national contest -- four will compete on the team -- but hasn't decided who will join Busse and Reeh on the trip, saying he will determine that list sometime during the spring semester.
Meanwhile, Keltz already is doing some homework.
"I've contacted the soil scientists at Oklahoma State," he said, "to have them send up some soil samples for texture."