4-H team sets goal to be state champs

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The Edgar County 4-H Livestock Judging Team has won every contest they’ve participated in this season but the four-member team has eyes on a bigger prize — the Illinois 4-H Livestock Judging Championship.

The team members — Nick Hamilton, Tucker Marrs, Emma Moresci and Mackenzie Burgin — will travel to the University of Illinois July 19 for the championships. A finish in the top three would earn the team a trip to the national contest in either Kansas City or Louisville in the fall.

“It’s what they have been working for since they were young,” Coach Hannah Spittler said. She noted the four, “have been doing this since they were seven or eight years old. They love it.”

Marrs, Moresci and Burgin will be seniors at Paris High School this fall while Hamilton is a 2017 PHS graduate. They are competing as the senior team from the county, Spittler said.

The team members got a major tune-up recently at the Illinois Beef Expo in Springfield with a contest hosted by the Illinois Beef Association and Blackhawk Junior College. The Edgar County team competed against 62 teams and came home with the championship.

Marrs finished in fourth place overall in the senior division while Burgin placed ninth. Only the top 10 participants are recognized. 

Spittler said the judging contest requires each team member to know not only the standards for the animals they are judging but be able give reasons on why they made the selection. 

“They not only have to know about their animals but have to speak correctly,” Spittler said.

Spittler and her husband, Juston, are coaches for the team, assisted by Maria Crandell. “Maria’s great helping with the reasons because she judges,” Spittler explained.

The team members typically judge eight to 10 pens with four animals each including beef, market hogs, gilts, sheep, breeding ewes and breeding goats. 

“It takes a lot of work and preparation,” Spittler said. “We really think they have a good shot.”

The Illinois 4-H livestock judging program teaches youth to identify breeds of livestock and helps them make decisions which improve their local herds. The annual contest is held in June each year on the University of Illinois campus.

Each county may enter a total of three teams, with no more than two junior teams or two senior teams. Counties may also enter three individuals. Teams are made up of four people, and the top three scores will be combined for the final team score.