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OHS FFA Livestock Judging Team Crowned Champions
Oakdale High School FFA Livestock Judging team along with Ag Department Chair and instructor Isaac Robles after securing the title as Reserve National Champion Livestock Judging Team in Indiana earlier this fall. Photographed, from left: Robles, Alternate: Dalton Breazeale and competing team: Grace Verdegaal, Blake Morgan, Kimber Tavares and Tavin Barry.

One might say it is through hard work, dedication and continued grit that Oakdale High School and its extra-curriculars have earned a respected reputation. Whether it be through sports or academics, students on fellow campuses throughout the county as well as the Central Valley share an expectation when they hear Oakdale High is in the house.

Now through the efforts and success of the OHS FFA Judging Team, that reputation has gone national in the Agriculture world. Earlier this fall the team of four seniors, with one alternate and Ag Department Chair Isaac Robles, journeyed to the FFA National Competition where they earned the title as Reserve National Champions in Livestock Judging. It is the highest honor received to date for the OHS FFA livestock judging team.

“Being from California we’re at a little disadvantage,” Robles said of the team and their trip to Indianapolis, Indiana. “We don’t see the livestock they see. We don’t see the numbers of it they see. We don’t live and breathe it like they do.”

A total of 45 states were represented in the National Competition. No small feat when one is representing the entire state of California on what is known as the ‘big stage’ in the FFA Livestock Judging World.

Over the course of their 12-day stay, the team competed in two local competitions, as well as the main event.

Team member Blake Morgan shared the overall experience was both impressive as well as eye-opening.

“We saw some of the best livestock I’ve ever seen,” Morgan stated, noting preparation by their advisor as a critical part to the team success. “When we got there he was exactly right, with everything we were going to see. He knew what was going to happen, Robles really helped us out.”

Not new to the competition venue or the reception a California school receives, Robles shared a little pep talk was due prior to the competition, as he watched his team struggle with confidence.

“I think it helped when they got to Nationals they had that anxiety a little bit,” Robles said of the pressure. “They hadn’t lost since after the state finals.”

Superintendent of Schools Marc Malone shared his pride in this team, not only for what they have accomplished but for demonstrating what has been both the vision, as well as the mission of the OJUSD School Board for the past six years.

“These five kids are the perfect example of what the board had in mind six years ago,” Malone said. “College and career readiness skills, that was the path our school board really started with this process six years ago.

“It’s not about Common Core,” he continued, “it’s about college and career readiness skills.”

Each of the competing team members noted their comfort, as well as preparedness for the varying portions of the two-day competition. Coach Robles added their test taking and anatomy knowledge also made clear the value of textbook knowledge, offering a nod of acknowledgement to fellow teacher Grace Tobias for aiding with the academic prep of the competition.

During the competition the students were faced with judging, assessing, reasoning as well as test taking from college level textbooks.

“There were only three teams in the entire contest that every single member was a gold (for individual performance),” Robles said, noting his team was among that the prestigious trio.

Looking ahead the four competing team members and one alternate have their eyes set to varied paths, from traditional paths at a four-year campus, junior college to Worldwide Auctioneer School, each have their eyes set on a continued path in Ag.

“I feel like FFA just brought me out of my shell,” Kimber Tavares said. “In junior high I was the quiet person. I couldn’t talk in front of a class or anything and now I’m doing this.”

“Things like the school farm fit into this too,” Robles said of the overall school success and district support. “We didn’t have to go to a ranch. We didn’t have to go across county to see pigs or sheep. We could put things together there.”

“We didn’t want cookie cutter,” Malone said of the board’s six year vision. “I think you see that embodied with these five.”