Green Forest Future Farmers team sweeps state awards
By Kelby Newcomb
The Green Forest Future Farmers of America (FFA) team swept the awards at the state competition this year.
For the Meats Evaluation division, Green Forest FFA won the state championship, and senior Caleb Marroquin was the individual state champion. Senior Abel Salazar was third for the high point individual and recognized as third overall in all contests in the state, and sophomore Max Jones was sixth for the high point individual.
“I got first place individually in the Meats Evaluation Career Development Event (CDE),” Marroquin said, “and our team won first place for state, so we get to compete at nationals for that. As a team, we got the high point in the state, which means we had the highest amount of points from all the competitions in the state of Arkansas.”
He continued, “I got high point individually in the state of Arkansas, so we basically took all the awards.”
Marroquin said it felt amazing to win as a team because he and Salazar have been working toward this goal since they were freshmen. Last year, he said, they missed first place at state by 26 points.
“Each person can score a maximum of 776 points, so 26 points is a very small amount to lose by and we got second place,” he said. “We came back this year and won by 123 points.”
“It was nice to see the hard work pay off,” Salazar said. “It took a lot of practice and a lot of studying.”
FFA adviser Keith Kilbourn said the team competed at six other competitions this year. He said Marroquin, Salazar, Jones and freshmen Alex Leal and Alex Kilbourn all competed.
“I had to decide who would be in the third spot for state, even though we consider them all as a team because they all worked hard and helped each other,” he said. “But like with anything else, you want your best students to be the ones competing. Max kind of separated himself from the others the last couple of contests, so he, Caleb and Abel competed at state.”
“It was kind of surprising to win,” Jones said, “because this was my first year.”
Kilbourn said the National FFA Convention and Expo will be held at the end of October in Indianapolis.
“The contest they’ll do they do as a team activity,” he said. “There will be team problem-solving where they all get to talk and communicate together on it. They usually do some type of industry situation where they are given a problem to remedy.”
Once students win a state contest for FFA, he said, they cannot compete again in the same area next year.
“So Max is done,” Kilbourn said. “We’re going to stick him on another team next year, and he could be one of the few who has won two state championship rings.”
He said Leal and Alex Kilbourn will continue to prepare for the competitions next year.
“I couldn’t be happier for these students,” Kilbourn said. “I know the time they’ve put in. They’ve worked extremely hard. Caleb has taken a good leadership role with this team because he understands the contest and has been on this team for a long time.”
He continued, “There aren’t many times that our students get to say ‘We’re the best in the state.’ They had a good year.”
Jones said they hope to do well at nationals this fall.
“We’ll be competing against a lot of good states,” he said.
“Some of these teams have meat labs at their school,” Marroquin said, “and have a class period during the day. Abel and I will be in college this fall and will travel back for nationals.”
He said they’re going to have to study a lot harder.
“We have to definitely improve all the areas we’ve already done,” he said. “There are a few parts of the competition you don’t do at the state level, so we have to learn completely new parts of the competition. There’s even like a team exercise, so you’re not doing everything individually.”
Marroquin said they can win quite a bit of award money for placing at nationals.
As excited as he was to do well individually, he said seeing his team succeed was the best part.
“I’m more proud of my team because I was first in state individually last year,” Marroquin said. “You can’t go compete at nationals until your whole team gets first place, so it felt a lot better to win as a team than to win individually. That is no big deal compared to winning as a team.”