After winning third place in the national Future Farmers of America's livestock judging competition last year, Eagle Point High School's team set its sights even higher.
And this year, it took the gold.
Amanda Vargas, Kristin Wyatt, Kayla Roberts, Brendon Kelley and Katie Deupree won first place in the Arizona National Livestock Judging Contest in Phoenix, Ariz., on New Year's Eve.
They were among 140 FFA students and teams from 35 schools across the nation competing at the Arizona National Livestock Show.
Last year, the Eagle Point team won third place after the Tennessee and Montana teams.
"The kids set their goal to win it," said Curtis North, Eagle Point's agricultural science and technology teacher and the FFA team's adviser.
The contest was held at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. The individuals and teams were scored based on their evaluation of 10 classes of pigs, sheep and cattle. The individuals had to orally defend their evaluations of three of the classes before officials.
"It's not like 'Napoleon Dynamite,' " North said. "They (the students) judge them on finish, frame and muscle and structure."
The students individually placed as follows: Vargas, second; Wyatt, 10th; Roberts, 15th; Kelley, 27th; and Deupree, 28th. North has high hopes for Deupree, a freshman.
"This was her first big contest," he said. "We kinda threw her to the wolves."
Roberts, a senior, has been judging livestock since the fourth grade in 4-H contests and since her freshman year in the FFA. This contest was very educational, she said.
"We were waiting for a win, and we finally got one," she said.
Last year, the team attended 10 county fair contests, a clinic at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany and weekly practices to prepare for the contest. It also held various fundraisers to pay for the trip, including a benefit auction in December where they raised $17,000.
"One thing about the Eagle Point community is the support they have for that program," North said.
North and Keith Frost, an agricultural science and technology teacher at Eagle Point, coach the students. There are more than 100 students in the school's FFA program.
"It was overwhelming to see how great they did," North said. "It's a group effort between the community and those kids."
Teresa Beskow is a Southern Oregon University intern. Reach her at 776-4464 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eagle Point FFA team takes gold