Best of the best

Grass Range vet science team places 7th in nation
Katherine Sears
Managing Editor
Friday, November 5, 2021
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The Grass Range Veterinary Science Team stands at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis last week, where they took 7th place overall. From left is Caden Seaholm, Morgan Corean, Advisor Gabby Drishinski, Nola Goss, and Layton Tucek.

Photo courtesy of Gabby Drishinski

It was an unexpected first for the Grass Range FFA Veterinary Science Team when they placed among the top 10 teams in the nation at the 94th National FFA Convention last week. The team, consisting of Nola Goss, Morgan Corean, Layton Tucek, and Caden Seaholm, qualified to compete at the national level when they won the Montana competition in March.

During the week of October 25, the team traveled to Indianapolis, Ind. to participate in the convention and compete in vet science. Over 60,000 FFA members from across the U.S., the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico attended the week’s events, and Grass Range was just one of almost 9,000 chapters represented.

According to Grass Range FFA Advisor Gabby Drishinski, this was the first time the local chapter competed at or attended a national convention. The vet science team also qualified to compete at the national level two years ago, but was unable to attend.

“The previous advisor was big in vet science,” said Drishinski. “So the girls (Goss and Corean) had been competing in the category since 2017.”

Corean ended up placing 9th individually as she helped the team grab 7th overall. The team placing was a surprise to the students, who have been studying together virtually. Goss and Corean are 2021 graduates of Grass Range, and have since moved away, while Tucek and Seaholm are seniors.

“We had a lot of virtual practices,” said Tucek. “Before meeting at nationals, our last time together was last year at school.”

Another challenge in preparing for the competition was a new format due to the pandemic.

“Usually, the teams compete over two days at national convention – one day they take the math test and written exam, and then the next day is the team problem and practicums,” said Drishinski. “This year, they did the first portion two months in advance.”

This format allowed organizers to weed the competition down to 22 teams actually competing in person at the national convention. Grass Range found themselves in the top 22 after the math test and written exam.

“We didn’t expect to be in the top 22, let alone the top 10,” said Tucek.

 In Indianapolis, the team was presented the team problem and eight practicums, which were randomly selected from 30 different clinical procedures and handling activities.

“There are 30 different practicums we have to know and we didn’t know which eight they were going to ask us to do,” said Seaholm. “We had no clue which ones it was going to be.”

The team agreed they shined on their team problem, which dealt with implementing telemedicine into a veterinary practice.

“The easiest part was the team problem,” said Seaholm. “We are used to making short presentations and are knowledgeable on the topic.”

Seaholm and Tucek both admitted Drishinki’s practice problems were harder than the competition problem, so they were very prepared.

“I have a friend in New York who is in veterinary radiology and telemedicine,” said Drishinski. “So we had a lot of phone conversations with her and she was an amazing resource for us.”

The team visited local ranches and veterinarians to help with ranch activities, such as preg checking, to prepare for the competition.

They also thought the written exam was a difficult element.

“It was hard because it focused a lot on small animals and we’re used to large animals,” said Drishinski.

They also found working with the stuffed animals at the national level a little different, since live animals are typically used at the state level. While they may have been skeptical in their abilities, they came out near the top.

“We thought it was going to be cutthroat, best of the best, but they’re normal kids just like us,” said Tucek. “We’ve been doing it for three years so we were pretty confident in our skills. A lot of them weren’t as confident.”

Since the team cannot compete for another state title in vet science after winning in 2021, Seaholm and Tucek are studying ag mechanics and looking at taking their poultry team to the next level.

“[Poultry] is a new competition in Montana and we did well last year since we are the only ones who really know what we’re doing,” said Seaholm.

Aside from competing in Indianapolis, the students enjoyed paintballing, a concert, rodeo, and student workshops, all exclusively for FFA members. Drishinski said she also took them to eat sushi for the first time, which yielded very mixed reviews.

While it may be the chapter’s first showing at the national convention, Drishinski hopes it’s not their last.

“I want to get the chapter financially comfortable to take kids every few years, even if they don’t qualify for anything,” she said. “But this year it was cool to see these kids go since they earned it and deserved to be there.”

Representing Montana

Matthew Slivka, Winifred, Bronze, Prepared Speaking
Miles City – 4th in Mechanics
Big Timber – 5th in Farm Business Management
Bainville FFA members – 4th in Power Systems (National Agri-Science Fair)