Hermiston FFA teams heading to nationals

Maegan Murray photo From left, Hermiston High School FFA meats evaluation team members Brady Linnell, Jessica Smelser and Halie Kennicott evaluate some pieces of meat to practice for their national competition this week.

Hermiston FFA students’ months of studying, practicing speeches and memorizing formulas will come down to one FFA national competition this week.

Hermiston High School is sending two FFA teams Sunday to compete at the National FFA Convention and Expo in Louisville, Kentucky: the meats evaluation team and the agriculture communications team. Both took first at the state competition in May. The national convention will take place Wednesday through Nov. 1.

Each team has prepared for the national competition differently.

Members of the meats team, composed of seniors Taylor Katsel and Ashley White and juniors Brady Linnell, Halie Kennicott and Jessica Smelser, have practiced memorizing more than 100 retail cuts of meats and 20 primal cuts for swine, lamb and beef. The students have also practiced calculating the yield and quality grades of beef carcasses, in addition to taking practice tests on the types of meat cuts, meat preparation, food-borne illnesses and more. The students will be quizzed on all those items on an individual basis and as a group.

“We don’t really have an expectation but more of a goal of doing well,” White said last week.

Her teammates agreed.

“We worked really hard for the summer,” Smelser said. “I think we always strive to get first, but we really just hope to live up to our potential.”

The Hermiston meats evaluation team placed sixth at nationals two years ago, its best so far. FFA meats instructor Raymon Smith, who also leads the meats team at Echo High School, which competed at nationals last year, said he has faith this year’s Hermiston team will also do well. He said scholarships are on the line for students who place in the top rankings.

“There are great opportunities available for these guys,” he said.

For their national competition, agriculture communications team members — HHS graduate Zachary Vandehey and seniors Jaycee Barron and Reilly Mason — have prepared a 15-minute media-based presentation on a local event in Hermiston. The group chose to do a presentation on the Full Moon Market, a spin-off of Hermiston’s Own Saturday Market. In the presentation, the team highlighted the target demographics of the market and how they could advertise, promote and appeal to those demographics to increase attendance at the market.

The students also put together a portfolio that highlights all elements of their project. At the end of their presentation at nationals, judges will ask the team questions about both aspects.

“That is probably one of the things that they are most concerned about,” FFA adviser Leah Smith said. “The questions could be on anything about their project or topic. They may be expected to know the exact economic impact their project would have on the Full Moon Market and how it will make a positive impact to the community.”

Additionally, the students have taken practice tests on grammar and Associated Press writing style.

Each team member is also responsible for their own individual topics. Vandehey is responsible for blog writing, Barron is responsible for feature story writing and Mason is responsible for graphic design. Each will have to complete certain tasks for their individual topics of interest at nationals.

The group, like the meats team, has been preparing since last school year. As a result, the team members said they expect to do fairly well at the national competition.

In 2011, a Hermiston agricultural communications team placed third, the school’s best finish.

“We have some big shoes to fill, but I think we are really solid on (our presentation),” Mason said.

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