Soil judging team takes bronze at nationals

· 3 min read

Soil judging team takes bronze at nationals

The UNL Soil Judging Team after their third-place finish at the national competition in California. | Courtesy
The Nebraska Soil Judging Team after their third-place finish at the national competition in California. | Courtesy

For the first time in the history of the student club, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Soil Judging Team earned a top-three finish in the overall competition at the National Collegiate Soils Contest. The event was held April 14-19 at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California.

The team, made up of students from the School of Natural Resources and the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, too third overall and also walked away with a first-place group finish, beating out the 25 collegiate teams. Individually, Samantha Teten, a senior agronomy major, placed 10th out of 101 competitors in the individual competition.

"There is nothing better for learning about soils than getting this experience in the field,” said Judith Turk, team co-coach and pedologist with the Conservation and Survey Division. “Soil judging gives students a chance to see firsthand the amazing variability of soil across the U.S. I am so proud of their accomplishments."

Co-coach Rebecca Young, assistant professor of practice in agronomy and horticulture, echoed that sentiment.

“The team put a lot of time and effort into practicing and learning about the soils throughout the semester, and their determination to finish strong this year really showed,” she said.

The 14 teammates had four days to prepare for competition, utilizing practice pits to become familiar with the soils and landscape of California. On competition day, they had to correctly identify, evaluate, classify and describe five soil profiles in previously unseen soil pits and also rate the area for land use.

The team has earned medal positions only twice during nationals since their inception in 1983: once in 2013 in the individual contest, when Craig Teten, Samantha’s brother, earned third place; and once in 2015 when they placed third as a team and ninth in the overall contest.

For Turk and Young, this year’s performance puts a national championship in striking distance.

“I guess I’m a little competitive,” Turk said. “I’d really like to see Nebraska earn first place someday and take home the big trophy. We were just 10 points behind the top team this time, so we are almost there.”

The 2019 team included: Aldi Airori, Katie Boden, Michael Darling, Riley Hackbart, Cadence Hernandez, Levi McKercher, Marisa Mika, Ema Muslic, Bryan Petersen, Rebekah Simmons, Nicole Strand, Clare Wilton and Kolby Grint and Teten.

Petersen, Strand, Teten and Grint competed in the individual contest based on scores achieved during the practice runs, as well as on their performance at regionals in Fall 2018. All students competed in the group competition.

To join the team, students must enroll in NRES 279: Soil Evaluation, a one-credit class offered each fall semester. Students can take the course up to three times while pursuing a degree.

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