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Kenmare FFA team shines bright in Louisville

Getting to state-level competition is an incredible task in itself, but for a group of Kenmare girls, not only did they secure a spot on the national stage, they ran away with it, taking second place in the nation.

11/11/14 (Tue)

Taking their knowledge to nationals... The Kenmare FFA team placed second in the nation with Dani Kling and Justice Brown placing in the top 10 in the nation as individuals. Pictured from left is the meats judging team; Rebekah Fetterhoff, McKayla Neubauer, Justice Brown and Dani Kling.
By Marvin Baker

Getting to state-level competition is an incredible task in itself, but for a group of Kenmare girls, not only did they secure a spot on the national stage, they ran away with it, taking second place in the nation.

Only a team from Texas finished ahead of the FFA girls from Kenmare.

Dani Kling, Justice Brown, Rebekah Fetterhoff and McKayla Neubauer, all Kenmare High School students, make up the FFA chapter’s meats judging team that attended the national FFA convention in Louisville, Ky. They competed in meats evaluation and technology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. They are coached by FFA Adviser Mitchell Becker.

In addition, Kling and Brown, were in the top 10 of placing individuals of all the teams participating.

Kling finished second in that category, and like the team, was topped only by a Texas competitor, Tommy Fletcher. She was presented a $1,000 cash award for her effort.

Brown was the fifth top-placing competitor and received a $700 cash award.

“That was something neat that the girls didn’t expect,” Becker said. “I’m very pleased. It’s a great accomplishment. Not a lot of kids get an opportunity to place that high.”

But the accolades don’t stop there.

Kenmare was named one of 15 Gold Emblem teams and Kling and Neubauer were both named Gold Emblem individuals.

“All four of them did well,” Becker said. “And they deserve the recognition.”

Individually, and as a team, the girls judged cuts of beef, pork, lamb, poultry and others. They looked for flaws in the cuts, reported on appearance and quality and practiced to infinity.

In essence, these girls did what a professional butcher does.

“We worked hard and it paid off,” Fetterhoff said. “We’ve been doing this for quite sometime.”

Fetterhoff, who attended the convention last year as an alternate, said there was an all-time record attendance of 64,000. She wasn’t surprised, but added there were some nervous moments, but Becker had prepared the girls for the national spotlight.

So how does a high school meats judging team from a small town in North Dakota make it to the cutting edge of this competition.

It wasn’t easy, according to Becker, and it took a lot of time, a lot of practice, a lot of repetition and a lot of coaching.

“We did a lot of practicing with just about any cut of meat you can think of,” Becker said. “We have those cuts here that are just for judging and not for consumption, and we have two individuals who come in and assist us.”

He said the best preparation was going to competition in Denver and Colorado State University nearly a year ago.

The girls did well there and later competed at Kansas State University in Manhattan and at the University of Illinois at Champaign.

That was excellent to have them in several college settings which helped them prepare for the elite stage, according to Becker.

But first they had compete in North Dakota in June, which to these four, was academic. Becker said his team went through that competition without difficulty.

On to Louisville and tens of thousands of FFA students, advisors, spectators, media, scouts and exhibitors.

That’s a lot of people and distractions while preparing for and competing in the biggest competition they had ever dealt with.

“Three of them had been at national before,” Becker said. “They knew there would be a lot of people so they didn’t need a lot of preparation. But, it’s a little more pressure.”

According to Fetterhoff, the criteria included a written test, 50 pages of documentation to read and understand, a 25-question comprehensive test, a formulation that determined a price structure of the meats, retail identification, carcass identification, determining quality and yield and placing the exhibits into six classes.

The ultimate test was when the teams were given four cuts of meat and they were required to grade them from best to worst.

“There was a lot to cover,” Fetterhoff said. “But now, we are essentially meat inspectors.”

Becker said the only thing that kept his team from claiming the top prize may have been in resources the Texas team had to work with.

But all in all, Kenmare performed far above the level most people would expect of them with the limited resources they had, according to Becker.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” he said. “I’m very happy with how it turned out...” Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!