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Thorsby FFA teams to compete at National Convention

Thorsby's FFA competitors include Caleb Langston, Jack Parnell, Adi Argent, Addie Niamon, Rebecca Bland, Kristin Morrison, Jarrett Price, Cody Lucas, Jason Brackner, Rianna Green, Yahir Gonzalez, Samual Dawson, Chyanne Martin, Rianna Green, Morgan Farris and Kailey Acreman. Also pictured is Thorsby FFA advisor Brian Lucas. (Contributed photo)

Thorsby’s FFA competitors include Caleb Langston, Jack Parnell, Adi Argent, Addie Niamon, Rebecca Bland, Kristin Morrison, Jarrett Price, Cody Lucas, Jason Brackner, Rianna Green, Yahir Gonzalez, Samual Dawson, Chyanne Martin, Rianna Green, Morgan Farris and Kailey Acreman. Also pictured is Thorsby FFA advisor Brian Lucas. (Contributed photo)

The Thorsby FFA poultry judging and meat evaluation teams will have a chance in October to compete at the FFA National Convention.

The teams earned the opportunities by winning first place at the state convention on June 9.

Thorsby FFA advisor Brian Lucas said that though Alabama ranks third in the country in poultry production, the state has never had a team place in the top 10 at the National Convention.

“We’re trying to make history,” said Rebecca Bland, Thorsby FFA poultry judging team member.

The National Convention will be held Oct. 26-31 in Louisville, Ky.

The accomplishment is even more impressive considering the relative inexperience of the team members.

The poultry judging team is actually Thorsby’s first.

Kristin Morrison transferred in from Horseshoe Bend, where she had been part of a poultry judging team, and wanted to join a team so she approached Lucas.

Morrison was told to find other students to start a team, so she did.

Morrison, Bland and Jarrett Price will all be juniors at Thorsby in the fall.

The team placed third in a district competition (the top four advanced) April 24 in Clanton, and then first in the state competition.

Bland was the top-scoring individual at the state competition.

At state, teams are allowed to have four members, and the scores of the lowest-ranking member are dropped.

Thorsby’s team had only three members, so there was no room for error during the three-hour competition.

“Nobody could mess up,” Price said.

Thorsby teams find themselves already at a disadvantage because of the school’s size. Most of the teams Thorsby competes against have a larger pool of students to draw from.

“We had to outwork everybody else,” Morrison said.

That’s what they did. The students met at school at 7 a.m. twice a week to practice, in addition to studying on their own.

They’ve also been meeting during their summer break.

The national competition will be similar to the state competition, where there were 14 different stations where participants have to individually judge chickens and eggs based on size, amount of pigment, cuts of meat and other factors. There was also a team activity and a written test.

Team members said they consider their experience a valuable one because of the important lessons they’re learning.

“It’s not just about the chickens,” Morrison said. “We can apply the things we learned to a lot of different things in life.”

Thorsby’s meat evaluation team will also compete at the National Convention.

Team members are Adi Argent, Addie Niamon, Caleb Langston and Jack Parnell.

Meat evaluation consists of identifying retail cuts of meat, quality grade and yield grade.

At one point during competitions, for example, participants might enter a freezer where various pig carcasses are hanging.

The judges must place the carcasses based on “trimness,” or meat quality.

At the state competition, Niamon and Argent were the top two individual scorers, with Langston finishing sixth and Jack Parnell 22nd.

Though they mostly studied on their own, team members credit time spent text messaging and talking through FaceTime, along with practicing at Reed’s Meat Processing.

“He’s so nice to just let us pop in,” Lucas said about the business owner Reed Maddox. “They’ve always been so gracious.”

Lucas said the meat evaluation competition includes the most information to memorize of all the competitions at the National Convention, and is spread over two days.

The meat evaluation team members, like the poultry judging team, are all competing for the first time–and they’re even younger. All are 14-year-olds entering the ninth grade in the fall.

“We’ll be the youngest team up there by far,” Lucas said.

Last year’s meat evaluation team won the state competition and advanced to nationals. A state champion team cannot compete again.

The success of Thorsby’s FFA program goes beyond even the two teams competing at nationals.

Ashlin Chance and Kandice Clayton placed first in Agriscience Fair at the state competition, while the horse evaluation team and dairy evaluation team placed fourth at state.

Cody Lucas earned the highest score in the forestry division of the land evaluation competition, and Rianna Green served as a delegate to the convention for her chapter.

The horse evaluation team includes Green, Chyanne Martin, Morgan Farris and Kailey Acreman.

The dairy evaluation team includes Green, Jason Brackner, Yahir Gonzalez and Samual Dawson.