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Lanesboro team places second in nation

By Janet Kubat Willette

Date Modified: 12/03/2013 2:46 PM

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LANESBORO, Minn. — The Lanesboro FFA dairy cattle evaluation team has accomplished another goal.

In spring 2012, when Haely Leiding, Kayla Leiding and Travis Troendle were freshmen, they placed second in the state in the Dairy Cattle Evaluation Career Development Event at the Minnesota FFA Convention. The trio were fine with that at the time, wanting to wait until Travis's younger brother, Jared, was old enough to join the team to win the state title.

That mission was accomplished in April 2013, when the four-person team of Haely, Kayla, Travis and Jared won the state competition and earned a trip to compete at the National FFA Convention.

They competed Oct. 30 to 31 in Louisville, and on Nov. 1, they found out they placed second in the nation in the National FFA Dairy Cattle Evaluation and Management Career Development Event.

It was the first time since 1997 that Lanesboro sent a team to compete at the convention. The 1997 team placed first and went on to judge in Europe.

The National FFA Dairy Cattle Evaluation and Management CDE tests students' ability to select and manage quality dairy cattle. The event includes evaluating six classes of cattle, herd record evaluation and a dairy management team activity.

The Lanesboro FFA team won the team activity, scoring 388 out of a possible 400 points. The team activity was new to them; that component isn't included at the state contest.

They knew the topic for the team activity would be nutrition, said Haely, now a junior, but they didn't know what the scenario would be. Pat Troendle, Travis and Jared's dad, is a nutritionist, and he and a friend worked with the team to practice presentations on nutrition.

At competition, they had 40 minutes to look over a scenario and prepare a 10-minute presentation, said Travis Troendle, a junior. A five-minute question-and-answer session followed.

Everybody had the same scenario, but no one knew until they sat down what the scenario would be, Travis said.

The team event was on the first day of competition, which began with an individual, 30-minute quiz.

Competition consumed about 10 hours during the two days, said Kayla Leiding, a junior.

"They were both long days," Travis added.

On the second day of competition, they judged six classes of cattle and gave reasons on three, said Jared Troendle, a freshman. Each class had four animals. They judged three breeds: Brown Swiss, Holstein and Jersey and had 12 minutes to give reasons.

Team members were split up to give reasons, Kayla said. They were placed in alphabetical order, always following Michigan.

After reason results were announced, they knew how they did but didn't know how anyone else did. That had to wait until Nov. 1.

At the awards luncheon, the bronze and silver emblem individuals were announced first.

"We didn't want to hear our names in these two divisions," Haely said.

Instead, all four were in the gold division, which was a good sign.

There were five states where all the team members were in gold, so they figured they were in the top five, said Kayla, a junior.

Next, they announced scholarship recipients. Both Leiding girls won scholarships, which go to the top 10 individuals in the contest. Haely placed fourth and earned a $700 scholarship. Kayla placed ninth and earned a $400 scholarship. Travis just missed a scholarship, coming in at No. 11. Jared placed 44th individually.

Then, they learned they placed second in the nation.

Lanesboro High School celebrated with them, as an announcement was made back home.

High school principal Brett Clarke said there has been a lot of enthusiasm in the school for the dairy judging team.

"It's pretty special," he said. "It's nice to see them rewarded for their hard work."

Clarke said he's learned a lot about the FFA CDE process, including that the team can't compete in the same area again once they've won at the state level.

Now, the team needs to decide if they will go to Europe to judge at the Royal Highland Show. It costs about $5,000 per person, and they will need to raise funds to go.