Not all the competitions at the Stock Show require the exhibitors to handle a grooming brush and a show stick.
Sometimes they have to take a test and give speech instead.
Those are the requirements for the Heifer Superintendent’s Beef Challenge, which invites high school seniors participating in the Junior Breeding Beef Heifer Show to take a 50-question written test and deliver a two-minute speech about the cattle industry and earn financial support to continue their educations.
This year, $86,000 in scholarships were awarded in the competition. Three of the top 10 finishers came from the FFA chapter at East Bernard High School in the tiny hamlet of that name (pop. 2,272) in Southeast Texas. That is a display of dominance seldom seen in any competition at the Stock Show.
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“I pushed them to study the materials. And they went in there and did what they are supposed to do,” said East Bernard agriculture teacher Annette Hill.
The three students were Charles Schmidt, 18, who received a $10,000 scholarship for finishing third; Shawna Lackey, 17, who earned $8,000 for her sixth-place finish; and Brent Vacek, 18, who won $6,000 for finishing seventh. A total of 61 Junior Heifer Show exhibitors competed in the challenge. The awards were presented Saturday in W.R. Watt Arena.
“We had a student here last year who finished third,” said Hill, who has taught at East Bernard for five years. Her husband and fellow ag teacher Jayson Hill helped prepare the students. “That sparked the interest of our juniors.”
Lackey cited Hill’s preparation and her knowledge of the breed she shows, Brahman, as the keys to her success in the competition. She plans to attend Texas A&M (as do her two fellow winners and, it seems, every kid who shows at animal at the Stock Show) and hopes to become a large-animal veterinarian.
Schmidt was especially comfortable with the written portion of the exam.
“Testing is my thing,” said Schmidt, proudly pointing out that he currently stands third in his class academically. “And Ms. Hill helped me with my presentation.”
Prior experience in similar competitions were an aid to Vacek.
“Since I had done the commercial steer contest, I didn’t have to learn everything from scratch. And my work with FFA has required me to do a lot of public speaking,” said Vacek, explaining why he was not intimidated by the oral part of the challenge.
The organizers of the challenge feel that the event is an important extension of what their young competitors do in the show ring.
“We started the challenge because these youngsters showing heifers do not have a premium sale like the market animals,” said Tom Woodward of Decatur, one of the junior heifer show superintendents. “It’s expensive to show cattle. Not every young person can afford that really expensive heifer that has an opportunity to win the class. But they can still compete in the challenge and win money to go to school. So this levels the playing field and gives everyone an equal opportunity.”
The winner of the top scholarship award of $16,000 was John Michael Fuhrmann of Lindsay, who plans to attend Texas A&M and study biological and agricultural engineering.
The second prize of $12,000 went to Tori Goggans of Wills Point.
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