4-H team takes eighth

HETTINGER - With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of work, three members of the Adams County 4-H Senior Livestock Judging Team finished eighth out of 21 teams at the 87th Annual Western National Round-up in Denver last month.

HETTINGER - With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of work, three members of the Adams County 4-H Senior Livestock Judging Team finished eighth out of 21 teams at the 87th Annual Western National Round-up in Denver last month.

Hettinger High School juniors Caitlin Pearson, Jenny Johnson and Kali Lueck also received the fourth-place ribbon in the sheep division, sixth in swine and 11th in the beef. The team is usually five strong, but two members, Steven Nash and Larry Lueck, did not participate nationally.

All three girls were new to national competition. They judged 12 classes and gave six sets of reasons during the competition. The team traveled by car to the competition in Denver during the bad weather which hit the area at the time.

"It was tough with three, usually there's more of an advantage having four on a team, but this group of kids have judged since third or fourth grade and won the junior 4-H livestock judging contest a couple years ago," Adams County 4-H coach Dave Pearson said.

Pearson has been the coach for the past 15 years and works as the Hettinger Research Extension Center's resident shepherd for over 20 years. In his youth, Pearson participated in 4-H contests and Future Farmers of America (FFA) livestock judging national and state competitions. In college, he was on the judging team in 1981 and 1982.


NDSU Adams County extension agent Julie Kramlich also attended the national competition and assists Pearson with the team.

The team started preparing for the national competition last October in the classroom. They went to Fargo to judge 12 classes with the college teams giving nine sets of reasons, said Pearson.

Then it was doing a couple of workouts a week, working on fat, market cattle on ranches in the Hettinger area such as Evanson Angus, Howe Angus and Strehlow's Yorkshires. The team also worked on Rambouillets at the HREC experiment station.

The team was well prepared for the competition when it hit the road, said Pearson.

The group even left a few days before the national competition to work with Kelly Burch in Casper, Wyo., who is a judging coach there. The tea spent 10 hours judging fat/market lambs and cattle. The team turned around the next day to work with University of Wyoming shepherd Brent Larsen on hogs and sheep breeding.

"The kids just about killed me," Pearson said.

The team encountered a more unknown obstacle on the way to the competition in Denver at the time - bad weather.

"We drove out in the snow storm at Denver. There was just no good weather," he added. "We left late at night after a girl's basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 2, stopping in Gillette before our other stops."


The weather didn't seem too bad for the North Dakotans, but the heavy wind and cold was not fun.

"We were lucky, it hadn't started snowing yet, just really windy," Lueck said. "What was a challenge was just finding time while at home practicing for the competition."

Lueck stays busy working on 4-H, FFA, FBLA, student council and track. Caitlin Pearson is on the Hettinger girl's varsity basketball team, volleyball, student council, FFA and 4-H, while Johnson is in volleyball, FFA, 4-H and student council.

"It's hard to take time out of school, skipping games and having semester tests when they came back," Pearson said. "They did well and really worked hard. I know you can get burnt out and with FFA work now it's hard for kids to get back into it."

Pearson's concerns while preparing for the competition were feedlot steers, since most of his experience and work has been with market lambs.

"We're not talking about show steers on halters," Pearson said of working with feedlot steers. "There's a big difference between show and feedlot."

Pearson is proud of the work and accomplishments the team has seen.

"National competition was a tough, but well-run contest," he added. "I'm happy with the reason scores they received and proud of their work ethic."


He looks forward to their upcoming work with FFA as their coach.

"They were right in there, got sixth in reasons and did well considering we couldn't make any mistakes, which hurt us when we made a couple in beef," he said. "If we would have been dead on, they were just so powerful. The kids work hard."

Lueck enjoys being in 4-H because she likes to show livestock and being involved helps her learn leadership skills she can use in the future.

"I (also) like going to fairs, meeting new people and learning new skills," Lueck added.

For Johnson, 4-H opened a door of interest into an agriculture-related career field.

"I'm interested in going into engineering," Johnson said.

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