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McCook Central's Winberg awarded 2018 National Land and Range champion

The rich history of success within McCook Central's FFA and 4-H chapter has produced a national champion for the first time in school history, as sophomore Katelyn Winberg was awarded first place at the National Land and Range Judging Contest las...

McCook Central sophomore and FFA member Katelyn Winberg recently was named National Champion in the the National Homesite Land judging competition in Oklahoma City in the first part of May. (Matt Gade / Republic)
McCook Central sophomore and FFA member Katelyn Winberg recently was named National Champion in the the National Homesite Land judging competition in Oklahoma City in the first part of May. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The rich history of success within McCook Central's FFA and 4-H chapter has produced a national champion for the first time in school history, as sophomore Katelyn Winberg was awarded first place at the National Land and Range Judging Contest last week.

Roughly 900 FFA and 4-H students competed in the 67th annual National Land and Range Judging Contest hosted by the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts (OACD) on May 1-3, in Oklahoma City.

Although Winberg's roots in FFA and 4-H date all the way back to her grandfather's history of success in the Chester area chapter, Winberg said it wasn't until seventh grade that she began her journey after taking a class that inspired her to join McCook's chapter.

"While I was in middle school, I looked up to great role models that were representing McCook high school's FFA chapter and was inspired to continue my journey," Winberg said. "I wanted to be like them."

Just one year into competing in 4-H and FFA, Winberg said she qualified to go to Nationals for agriscience in eighth grade.

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"Qualifying for Nationals was my first big achievement," she said.

Leadership and success

Winberg's national championship comes off the heels of a first-place finish in nursery landscape at the South Dakota State FFA Convention in Brookings on April 15-17.

"Right after we got back from state convention, Mr. Rieckman had me and other team members practice soil, slopes and textures every single day," she said.

The long history of McCook's 4-H and FFA success lies largely within the leadership of Terry Rieckman, McCook's FFA adviser and agriculture teacher, who is currently in his 34th year.

"Alicia Peterson, our extension person at the courthouse, is a former student who works hand-in-hand with me on a lot of things throughout my time in McCook," Rieckman said. "Whether we're taking kids to range land and soil days every summer, we work together really well."

Rieckman largely credits National Resource Conservation Services soil scientist Lance Howe for succeeding at the national level.

"Lance has taught me a lot of tips and pointers to give us the edge in succeeding and competing at the national level," Rieckman said.

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Rieckman said practicing and studying soil textures and slopes are vital components in order to compete at the national level.

"Texture and slope are probably the two hardest things to determine, but if you can determine those two, you can be like Katelyn Winberg and get a perfect score," he said.

Although Winberg notched a perfect score to become the first national champion in McCook school history, she said the life lessons 4-H has taught her go beyond winning and losing.

"It's taught me you have to really push yourself and work hard if you want to earn something," Winberg said.

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