SHERIDAN — Four students from the John B. Kendrick FFA at Sheridan High School took seventh place in livestock judging at the 92nd National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana, Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, in the first year the team has attended the event since 2015.

“They’ve grown a whole lot, and that’s definitely the toughest competition and most competitive at national competition, so to come out placing that well, it’s quite the feat,” FFA Advisor Clay Christensen said.

Senior Kayce Pearce and juniors Maggie May McStay, Colter Sharp and Braden West earned seventh place overall as a team and fifth place in the team activity. The team was also recognized as a gold emblem team. McStay and Pearce received individual gold emblems and McStay placed 14th overall and received a $400 scholarship. Sharp and West both received silver emblems as individuals.

“I’m super proud of the team activity,” Christensen said. “That’s something they had never seen before going to that contest, so to end up fifth in that is impressive.”

The team earned the spot as reserve champions at the state level and were selected to represent Wyoming at the national level after state champion Wheatland High School’s livestock team was unable to attend.

“The important thing to realize is not only did they beat teams in Wyoming but then all the teams that didn’t get to go to nationals from the other states,” FFA Advisor Kassi Renner said.

The students also competed against teams that had members who were already freshmen in college.

The first day of the competition focused on individual work consisting of a 25-question test, selection of breeding stock, questions on black angus bulls and the two team exercises of marketing and genetics. On the second day, students did their placing classes and presented their reasons for class placements.

The team aced their tests in genetics and marketing, even though the students considered the written tests the hardest part of the competition by far.

“We were proud of ourselves because we were struggling so hard with the marketing stuff, and then to miss not even a single question on there was just amazing,” Pearce said.

For the team events, Pearce and West competed in genetics and McStay and Sharp did marketing.

The marketing event focuses on the commercial side of the industry, with students working with the slide and selling cattle in large numbers rather than by the head and simulating online sales and calculating things like processing fees and transportation costs.

“Lots of math,” Sharp said twice.

Leading up to the event, the team practiced at least four nights a week with the FFA advisors at the high school and the 4-H team. Much of the practice time was spent practicing presentations and also studying as individuals, since questions for the written tests can come from anywhere in the animal science field.

“We did lots of sets of reasons, looked at classes, and then the last few weeks we worked really hard on the marketing activities,” Renner said.

In addition to the high school FFA team, all four students also judge with 4-H, and they all cited West’s father Justin West as a major influence on their interest in livestock judging. Justin West volunteers at many of the local events and previously coached the high school team.

“He gets all of the kids interested in showing and into the agriculture industry,” Pearce said. “He started all of us actually.”

The students said the competition was a great way to meet other students from around the country, and Pearce said being able to judge higher quality animals at the national competition was a great learning opportunity.

Through the program more broadly, the students all feel they’ve grown from the experience.

“Throughout the process it’s been a great experience,” McStay said. “I’ve learned so much not just about livestock and the industry, but meeting new people and how to make connections with people and talk to people, which I think are huge life skills, and I use those skills every day.”

Pearce is running for a position as a state officer for FFA this year, and West hopes to run next year as a senior.

All of the students are planning to judge in college and pursue agriculture careers after high school. Since they’ve competed at the national competition this year, the students will not be able to compete at nationals again in the future in livestock judging, though they can change career development events. The students will compete again at the state event in April.

“It’s been amazing to watch all of us grow as a team,” Pearce said. “And this being my senior year, last year with them, they’ve pushed me so much just to help improve me so when I go to Torrington I can judge the best there at the collegiate level.”