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Young County 4-Hers Win 2010 Reserve Champion at the National Range Judgin

Young County 4-Hers Win 2010 Reserve Champion at the National Range Judging Competition

Story by Randy Henry

For the second consecutive year, the Young County 4-H Range Evaluation Team won a national title as the 2010 Reserve Champion at the 59th Annual National Range Judging Competition held on May 6th in Oklahoma City.

The Young County team that competed in the 4-H division and received national recognition consisted of Jacob Renfro, Katharyn Camp, and Erin Reid of Graham, Texas, and Derek Bagley, who resides in Olney. The big winner was Renfro, who had the highest winning score in the individual competition with 895 out of 1,000 points.

Plus, Camp placed seventh in the individual category with 775 points, and is also a STEP employee in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service�s (NRCS) Graham Field Office, along with Reid placing ninth overall in the individual competition with 770 points.

�We have been practicing within other competitions since September, but this contest in Oklahoma City is completely different that most of the Texas contests,� said John Paclik, NRCS district conservationist in Young County and coach for the 4-H range evaluation team. �So, to win again as reserve champions, and have Renfro placing first with his outstanding score is truly a great win for the Young County team.�

For more than 20 years, Paclik has been working with plant identification and land judging teams, and as a former 4-Her on Cooke County and Texas A&M University plant identification teams always wants to give back to youth through natural resources.

�Along with giving back to the community what has been given to me, my two passions are youth and conservation, so I am accomplishing both by teaching young people the importance of identifying plants and how to manage natural resources,� Paclik said.

Historically, Oklahoma has the distinction of having hosted the National Rangeland Judging Contest annually since 1952. Thousands of youth and young adults qualify for the national contest by participating in local, regional, and state contests throughout the United States.

�We usually go up early in the week and practice long hours to get used to the Oklahoma plants, and see the Texas plants at a much smaller stage of growth,� Paclik said. �Our Young County team practices with the Future Farmers of America (FFA) team from Jacksboro, since the 4-H and FFA compete in different divisions. In fact, Jacksboro�s FFA team placed first in the FFA division, placing two team members first and third in the individual competition.�

The competition consists of identifying 20 live plants from a list of 130 plants, and evaluating three ecological sites for beef cattle and quail as well as choosing a management recommendation to meet the objectives of a landowner.

Moreover, the ecological sites are categorized in terms of soil depth, topography, slope, plant production, and plant composition. The descriptions of plant composition included loamy bottomland, loamy prairie, deep savanna, hardland or claypan prairie, shallow or rock prairie, clay prairie, and breaks.

�This is an extremely hard competition, in which 20 plants must be identified, and three plots are judged as to what are the existing conditions for livestock and quail,� Paclik said. �The challenge in getting ready for this national competition is acknowledging how hard the contest actually is, and the hours of dedication by the team and coaches.�

Paclik added that helping out with this year�s national reserve champions readiness, along with the 2009 title were Cory Jackson, who is a current Ag teacher and FFA team coach in Jacksboro, and Joe Ray Burkett, a retired Ag teacher and now working as a district technician with the Jack Soil and Water Conservation District.

�Burkett has been taking his FFA team to this national competition for over twenty years, and told me this year�s plant line was one of the hardest he has seen,� Paclik said.

Paclik commented that most of the plants were clipped down to the point of an inch or two, so if you�re not lying on your belly to get a closer look a few plants probably could be missed.

�The Young County team got down in the soil and won another national reserve title,� Paclik said.

Jacob Renfro

Young County team

Receiving the first place award for the High Point Individual category in Oklahoma City on May 6, 2010 at the National Range Judging Competition, Jacob Renfro, right, took on all contestants and won with an outstanding score of 895 out of 1,000 points. Presenting Renfro with the award is Jess Lam, left, president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts.

Jess Lam, far left, president of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, presents the Young County 4-H Range Judging Team with the 2010 Reserve Champion award at the 59th Annual National Range Judging Competition in Oklahoma City on May 6, 2010. The team members from left to right are Erin Reid, Katharyn Camp, Derek Bagley, Jacob Renfro, and John Paclik, coach of the Young County 4-h Range Judging Team.