Academic and sports teams are not the only areas where Oakdale High School is making its mark. As Oakdale Agriculture programs continue to grow and thrive, there is good and valid reasons why Oakdale Joint Unified is turning its focus and energy to the Oakdale School Farm.
Students of the OHS Future Farmers of America have spent the better part of the past five years proving at the county, as well as the state and now national level, that the Cowboy Capital is not one to be overlooked in the way of Ag Education.
Earlier this week Oakdale alum from the Class of 2016, Emma Wright, Madison Morgan, Kevin Snyder and Ty Jones, boarded a red-eye flight with OHS Ag Instructor Isaac Robles enroute to Indianapolis, Indiana. While the trip will undoubtedly bring memories to last a lifetime, the five OHS representatives are traveling not for pleasure, but with purpose.
Earlier this year, the four students earned the title as State Livestock Judging Champions. They will now represent the state of California at the FFA National Competition hosted Oct. 19 and 20 in Indianapolis. The group will spend 13 days total in Indiana, using the days leading up to the featured event to participate in prep competitions with other students.
“It’s kind of neat,” Snyder said of the team and its natural formation. “We’ve all come with different experiences to be a State Champion Team.”
“They’re really smart,” Robles said of the team. “It’s probably the toughest contest in FFA by far.”
According to the team members, Livestock Judging requires extensive knowledge of four separate species of livestock: swine, lamb, goat and cattle. Each of the livestock must be judged by highest to lowest quality and then an oral assessment of their reasoning given to a judge. At the state level this is done individually. The result of the individual can and in the case of OHS did result in a Championship Team.
“The willingness to stick with it,” Robles noted of his team and their willingness to continually learn. “It takes a couple of years for kids to stick with it and really get it. Rarely do you see a team that’s this mixed with years of experience come close to where they are at.”
The team is comprised of members with varying years of FFA Livestock Judging Experience, the two most notable being Wright and Jones.
Wright joined the team in her Senior year as a transfer student.
“To get to go to Nationals my very first year is super special,” Wright said. “Transferring to Oakdale and joining this team changed my entire life. It totally altered all that I had planned in such a short time.”
Jones began his high school career at Riverbank High, joining the OHS student body his Junior year. According to the 2016 alum prior to joining the FFA team, he had no exposure to livestock.
“It’s just insane,” Jones said, noting his suburban Riverbank upbringing. “I didn’t even know sheep had tails until my junior year. It’s just insane that we are State Champions.”
“The moment we won was surreal,” Wright added of the May competition, her teammates chiming in that the reality of what that meant had yet to sink in.
Each of the four are members of the Class of 2016, the championship and trip to Nationals extending their interaction as well as their friendship. Three of the four now attend college together in Oregon.
“After May we got like a little ‘honeymoon’ he called it,” Morgan said of the break they were given by advisor Robles.
“We got a mental pause to kind of refresh,” Snyder added. “A month later we started hitting it again.”
‘Hitting it’ included countless hours spent during summer studying as a group, receiving e-mails with livestock links from Robles and Skype sessions once the three left the state.
“When things came together this year it was easy to see we have the potential to do great things,” Snyder said. “So far we have been doing great things. Now the fact that we get to go represent the entire state at the National level; it’s a dream come true. I feel incredibly blessed to be doing this.”
“The level of appreciation from the community and administration has been astounding,” Robles admitted. “There’s pressure because everybody wants us to do well. That angst that we have, everybody else is sharing with us, and that feels good.”