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Range judging champs

The Butte County 4-H range judging team won a national championship at the National Land & Range Judging Contest in Oklahoma City. Pictured are, from left, Butte County Extension Educator and coach TJ Swan, JC Seaman, Blane Hotchkiss, Ethan Pauley, Kyle Tifft, and coach Dave Ollila.
National Range Judging Team |

BROOKINGS, S.D. – The Butte County 4-H range judging team brought home the National Championship from the 59th annual National Land & Range Judging Contest in Oklahoma City.

Butte County 4-H’er JC Seaman placed second overall in individual scoring. Teammates Ethan Pauley, Blane Hotchkiss and Kyle Tifft placed third, fourth and eight, respectively, in a field of more than 650 FFA and 4-H teens.

The Newell FFA Range Judging Team placed ninth nationally, with a team that included Tyler Swan (22nd overall), Morgan Myers (34th), Cady Olson (39th) and Brodie Shaykett (45th) in the individual competition.



Butte County Extension educator TJ Swann served as the coach of the Butte County 4-H team, while Dave Ollila, Newell FFA advisor, Jodie Dunbar, Newell FFA Advisor and Dani Herring, Newell FFA alumni supporter, coached the FFA team.

Ten South Dakota Teams competed in the National Land and Range Competition. Other finishers included the Spink County 4-H team, who placed 10th in home site judging, and 19th in land judging.



South Dakota FFA home site teams included Kadoka, which finished 33rd, and Hitchcock-Tulare, which finished 34th. Hitchcock-Tulare FFA finished sixth in land judging, McCook Central finished 11th, Kadoka finished 62nd, and Lennox Sundstrom FFA finished 80th.

In addition to Newell, other FFA teams that competed in the range judging included Hitchcock-Tulare, 19th, and Webster, 21st. The Willow Lake FFA team also took part in the event.

The contest was held May 4-6, and the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts served as the contest’s principal sponsor. The El Reno Federal Corrections Institute hosted the event on its FCI Farms.

Redlands Community College hosted the luncheon for participants at its Darlington Agricultural Education Farm near the contest site. Total registration for the event exceeded 860 with coaches, sponsors, officials, and group leaders.

The Butte County and Newell teams qualified for the national event by placing among the top five teams at contests held in South Dakota. The first two days of the three-day event offered contestants opportunities to visit nearby practice sites to get acquainted with Oklahoma soils and plants.

The actual contest site remained a secret until the day of the contest day, so no one had an advantage. Contestants and coaches then gathered on the morning of the contest to receive the official contest location. Then a police-escorted caravan of more than 100 vehicles traveled to the site.

The event ended Thursday night with an awards banquet in the Great Hall of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Jeanette Nance, liaison to Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, welcomed the participants. National championship trophies were awarded to team and individual winners in each category of the competition including land judging, range judging, and home site evaluation. Each category included competitors from both the FFA and 4-H.

Dave Ollila, Newell FFA advisor, said the lessons learned in Oklahoma will pay dividends.

“These opportunities to study range management provide students with skills and understanding of a valuable natural resource that drives the economies of rural America in the west,” said Ollila. “Many students will pursue careers that require the knowledge of habitat and range resource management, and at this event, they sharpened that knowledge.”

In addition to practicing and competing in the range-judging contest, the South Dakota FFA and 4-H teams visited the Oklahoma City Zoo, Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, Lazy E Ranch, and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.


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