The days begin well before the sun comes up and weekends are virtually nonexistent for the renowned Connors State College Livestock Judging Team.
The 40-member team consists of freshmen and sophomores from all across the United States who come together for one reason, a passion for livestock. Coached by Brandon Gunn and Dodge Nichols, the team spends 30-40 hours a week either preparing for upcoming competitions or hitting the books in mandatory study hall. With this being the largest team in the country, in regards to the number of students, they face certain difficulties having enough one on one time with each team. Coach Gunn emphasized the importance of these students, putting in extra work outside of practice in order to be successful. He added, They understand what it takes, and they are striving to reach their individual goal, as well as the ones set forth by the team.
In October the team competed and worked at the Tulsa State Fair where they assisted with the swine and heifer rings, competed in the college competition, as well as organized and directed a state high school competition. According to department chair, Debbie Golden, the high school competition is an excellent recruiting opportunity for Connors.
At the Tulsa State Fair the freshman team finished with Champion Team honors as well as the third team overall, in addition to winning numerous individual awards. Ian Schaefer earned 2nd High; Tyler Mackey received 3rd High and Trey Lockhart came in 4th. The sophomore team found success as well by earning Reserve Champion. Individual leaders were Jordan Richburg earning 2nd High, Olivia Foster earning 8th and Claire Martin coming in 10th.
The team had a quick turn around and headed to the State Fair of Texas the following weekend, but had no trouble finding success there either. In addition to six members earning individual honors, the sophomore team walked away as the Champions. Jordan Richburg, 2nd, Blake Davis 3rd, Lindsay Bowman 4th, Laine Martin 5th, Claire Martin 6th, and Jessica Miller 10th. The freshman team received Reserve Champion with four members earning individual honors. Ian Schaefer dominated the contest and won High Individual overall. Tate Horwood came in 6th, Brazos Williams 7th, and Lynsey Meharg 9th.
This was an exciting, but tiring week for our kids, expressed Judging Coach, Brandon Gunn, With helping at the shows, taking care of their school work, and trying to prepare for contests, there was an awful lot on their plate. I am just so pleased with the determination and effort that our crew put forth to accomplish these wins.
Sophomore judger, Jordan Richburg, agreed that, The shows have been exhausting and exciting all at the same time, but in the end it was all worth it.
Upcoming contests are the American Royal contest in Kansas City, Missouri, on October 26-30, the Texas Tech contest in Lubbock, Texas, on November 4, and finally the national contest at the North American International Livestock Exposition (NAILE) in Louisville, Kentucky, November 10 through 17.