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FFA Livestock Judging Team Wins State Title
OHS Victory
ohs ffa
California Livestock Judging team champions Devon Pastor-Guzman, Jaiden Grivette, Nicole Carter, Morgan Gravatt and Dominic Robles outside of Oakdale High School shortly after learning of their state title win. Photo Contributed

Oakdale High School Future Farmers of America continues to represent the investment of the District and its staff well, as the OHS Livestock Judging Team was recently named California State Livestock Judging champs.

Team members Nicole Carter, Morgan Gravatt, Devon Pastor-Guzman, Jaiden Grivette and alternate Dominic Robles proved that adversity by way of learning need not get in the way of success.

According to OHS Ag Instructor Isaac Robles, the adversity and distancing of COVID-19 learning left many California schools opting out for the year. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the OHS team began attending virtual practices via Google Hangout and Zoom in September to prepare for the competition.

“We had other freshmen coming in and just getting the idea of livestock judging,” Carter said of virtual attendance early in the school year. “So this was like a big group. Recently we began practicing just the four of us.”

“The whole year, we’ve tried to carry all of us together so that we’re all improving,” she continued, “so that they’re ready for next year to compete at state as well.”

“This team attended the last live contest in 2020 before everything was shut down and achieved second place,” Robles added of the team.

The instructor shared that once they learned, as well as realized the shutdown would not end sooner than later, they began embracing virtual judging and learning what that all entailed. The team began attending virtual contests with schools from throughout the country. A fact which would prove to be to their advantage when attending the state contest later in the school year.

Of the top five individual winners at the California State Livestock Judging Contest, the top four were from the Oakdale High School team.

“As far as points went, probably one of the highest scoring teams, probably ever,” Robles said of the team’s achievement. “Doing it virtually like this, it is easier to judge if you eliminate all the weird stuff from live evaluation.”

But first the students had to learn to master the art of judging virtually. Being present with four different videos to evaluate and place, as well as offer their set of reasons. With the competition being virtual, each team member submitted their reasons via video submission.

“We took it seriously,” Robles proudly stated, “not all did. I think a lot of California schools didn’t take it seriously. In the virtual contest we competed in this year against the California schools, we killed them. It wasn’t close; it was very obvious we were on a different level than they were.”

There was also a bit of internal pressure as underclassmen Carter and Pastor-Guzman (both juniors) wanted the win for senior class teammates, Gravatt and Grivette.

“I think the saying, ‘You’re only as strong as your weakest link’, is really important for us,” Gravatt said of the team. “We’ve all worked together to improve as much as the next person. At the state contest you could tell how we were all working together.”

“Me and Morgan, with our experience, tried to bring up our younger members and help them as much as we could,” Grivette added. “We were all just trying to give each other what we knew, so all of us could get better as a team.”

It was an approach which indeed paid off as the team virtually competed and then waited two weeks for the final announcement of results.

“We heard all of our names get called in the high individuals first and we knew, oh we got this,” Grivette said.

Robles admitted he suspected the same when he saw the scores, stating that he had shared a little with the team on the significance of the scores in relation to winning.

Watching the awards together, the team shared emotions were high upon hearing their first place achievement and then nerves set in.

The team will now travel to Indiana in late October to represent California in the National Competition during the FFA National Convention.

“I haven’t slept very much,” Pastor-Guzman shared, noting the nerves of now preparing for the national competition, which will return to the traditional live format.

“I get nervous just thinking about it,” Gravatt added.

“Just having the opportunity to go to National Convention, especially after this past year and everything being virtual. This is a huge opportunity for all of us,” Grivette shared.

Yet the reality of the past year has left the team not only with the challenge of getting re-acclimated to live judging, but also seeking financial support to help pay for the trip. Coming off of a year of no fundraising by way of the annual Cake Auction, impromptu barbecues and other events, the team must also shift its focus to finding sponsors and donors to help pay the overall expense.

“Fundraising will be extremely important to help get them there,” Robles shared. “The lack of fundraisers during the 2020-21 school year has had an impact.”

“We’re starting at the bottom,” Gravatt added, regarding fundraising. “We’re still limited on what we can do because of COVID.”

Yet the team and their leader recognize the generosity, as well as the support of the Oakdale community and feel encouraged that they will be supported.

“Every practice I would try and pump them up a little bit and say, hey we are doing what no one else is doing,” Robles said of encouraging the team. “I promise you, if you keep doing this, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m very proud of the team overall and what they’ve accomplished in an unconventional year.”

Those interested in making a donation toward the team’s travel may do so by visiting