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Winning; CASNR passes century mark in national championship titles

Winning; CASNR passes century mark in national championship titles

Texas Tech University’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources passed a huge milestone this summer, when its outstanding Meat Science Academic Quiz Bowl Team brought home a national championship title at the 69th Reciprocal Meat Conference in San Angelo. The meaty win brought the number of national championship titles to 100 for the South Plains-based academic unit.

Since Texas Tech’s beginning in 1923, CASNR has provided programs of excellence in teaching, research and public service to prepare students for employment in the modern agricultural and renewable natural resources industry. Included in that effort is a long-standing competitive streak that presses its students toward excellence.

“Having been involved in judging contests at some level since I was a junior 4-H’er and throughout my career, I am astonished at the level of excellence that has been attained by our CASNR judging programs,” said Steven Fraze, Interim Dean of Tech’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. “It is so appropriate to celebrate 100 national championships as Texas Tech University approaches a century of education, research and service.”

CASNR is well known for an educational philosophy that fosters active learning inside and outside the classroom.

“Being a past judger myself, I’m a huge supporter of the judging programs in the college,” said Cindy Akers, CASNR’s Associate Dean for Academic and Student Programs and a member of Tech’s 1990 Livestock Judging Team. “Judging team participation is a great example of the hands-on learning outside the classroom.”

CASNR’s Department of Plant and Soil Science laid the groundwork with a decades-long string of national titles beginning in the 1940’s. Between 1947 and 1970, its crop judging team took no less than 35 championships in what was then known at the Intercollegiate ”“ Kansas City and International ”“ Chicago competitions. Meanwhile, from 2007 to 2009, the department’s Agronomy Quiz Bowl Team dominated the title rankings.

One factor in Tech’s dominance was the presence of two individuals. Cecil Ayers, a noted agronomy professor who began working at Tech in 1942, was the winner of the Piper Professor Award. The longtime coach of Tech’s crops judging team led his teams to either first or second in both national and international judging teams from 1947 to 1953 and again in 1955.

“Cecil Ayers was the quintessential teacher and judging team coach,” said Cynthia McKenney, Tech’s Rockwell Endowed Professor of Horticulture in Plant and Soil Science. “He was able to share his passion for crops with his teams such that they were able to strive for the best and make Texas Tech a dominate force in national competitions for many years.”

Another leader was B. L. Allen, a veteran educator and nationally-recognized soil scientist who taught soil science courses at Tech for almost 50 years, starting in 1959. From 1991 until his retirement in 2003, Allen served as the university’s Rockwell Professor of Soil Science. In addition, he coached Tech’s soils team for 40 years.

“Dr. Allen was a foremost soil scientist, a deeply religious individual, and ”“ most importantly ”“ a good man,” added Richard Zartman, former chairman of Tech’s Plant and Soil Science Department. “He was the consummate field soil scientist, and he instilled his curiosity and passion in all of us who had the good fortune to work with him,” said Zartman, who retired from his post as chairman and Leidigh Professor of Soil Physics in 2014.

While athletic teams tend to cycle up and down in the limelight during the current sports season, two CASNR teams have recently been dominate in competition, often defending their national championship titles in distant locations across the nation. The Meat Judging Team and the Livestock Judging Team, both in Tech’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences, are among the country’s top leaders in their fields.

Tech’s Meat Judging Team won top honors in 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015, while the Livestock Judging Team won national titles in 1934, 1953, 1985, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2015. Separately, other high-flyers in the department bringing in national titles include the Meat Animal Evaluation Team which won in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013; and Ranch Horse Team which won in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Mark Miller, a nationally-recognized animal scientist with Tech’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences, leads one of CASNR’s standout teams. He was selected to receive this year’s American Meat Science Association Intercollegiate Meat Judging Meritorious Service Award.

Miller has mentored and coached 293 meat team members across 32 teams at a world-class level. Collectively, his teams have retired 23 championship cups, unprecedented since the start of meat judging in 1926.

“These students represented Texas Tech University with excellence,” Miller said.

Meanwhile, Ryan Rathmann, an associate professor with Tech’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences, leads another winning team. Last year Tech’s livestock judging team claimed the national championship judging crown, earning the program’s eighth national title and first since 2011 at the North American International Livestock Exposition in Louisville.

“We’re fortunate to have so many exceptional students in our judging program,” Rathmann said.

“The experiential learning and development that takes place while being on a team are hard to replicate in a classroom,” said Michael Orth, chairman of Tech’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences. “What has been the most impressive to me is meeting many of our former students and seeing not only how successful they have become in their careers, but also their exemplary character.”

CASNR has a long culture of involvement that encourages students to be engaged in activities outside the classroom, said Michael Galyean, the university’s new interim provost and Thornton Chair in Tech’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences. “Competitive teams are a key way of showing that involvement,” he said.

The championship list, to the best of CASNR officials’ knowledge, includes:
• Agronomy Quiz Bowl Team: 2007, 2008, 2009
• Crop Judging Team (Intercollegiate ”“ Kansas City): 1947, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970
• Crop Judging Team (International ”“ Chicago): 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956, 1958, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968
• Horse Judging Team: 1981, 1986, 2004
• Livestock Judging Team: 1934, 1953, 1985, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2015
• Meat Animal Evaluation Team: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013
• Meat Judging Team: 1989, 1991, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015
• Meat Science Academic Quiz Bowl Team: 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016
• Ranch Horse Team: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016
• Range Plant Identification Team: 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1976, 1977, 1978
• Rodeo Team: 1955
• Soil Judging Team: 1964, 1967, 1973, 1975, 1977
• Women’s Rodeo Team: 2012
• Wool Judging Team: 1956, 1986, 2013

Written by Norman Martin

CONTACT: Steven Fraze, Interim Dean, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Texas Tech University at (806) 742-2808 or steven.fraze@ttu.edu

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