Steamboat Springs Coaches Rod Wille, Rod Olinger and the five members of the Routt County 4-H Livestock Judging Team have traveled across the county, practicing with animals on local ranches.
They’ve traveled across the state and region to competitions as a team.
But today, they’ll leave on their most monumental journey yet.
The Livestock Judging Team embarks today on a trip to Louisville, Ky., for the National 4-H Livestock Judging Competition.
Team member Catharine Koroulis said they’ll never be as ready as they are now.
“I feel like we are as ready as we ever will be, and I’m excited to represent Colorado,” she said.
The team, comprising Koroulis, Cole and Mackenzie Carnahan, Morgan Hatfield and Abbey Horn, won the state title in June and has been racking up first- and second-place finishes throughout October at regional events.
Wille, who volunteered his time to coach livestock judging for 13 years, said this year’s team includes the top talent in the state.
“It’s just a heck of a talent,” Wille said. “Somewhat, you have to have that ability to judge livestock. But second of all, it’s giving oral reasons. It’s having to stand up and defend their decisions.”
Koroulis sees talent as only one aspect of their successes. She also sees how the team’s cohesion has propelled the members forward.
“There are a lot of talented teams,” she said. “But it’s how well we get along and how much we help each other.
“I think, personally, what sets our team apart is that we’re so united as a team. It takes natural talent to be successful. But at this level, it takes natural talent coupled with a sense of team unity.”
In the upcoming competition, the team will judge 11 classes of livestock. For four of those classes, judges will have to give oral reasons for their placements. In two classes, they will have to be prepared to answer questions directly from the judge.
Despite the talent level they’ll see in Louisville, Koroulis has confidence in the team.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of tough competition, and I don’t want to be presumptuous to say we’ll win, but we have the best shot at the national champions that I think we could have,” she said.
Koroulis is attending college in Casper, Wyo., along with Hatfield. Both are on scholarships for livestock judging.
The Carnahans and Horn attend Soroco High School.
Koroulis said her experience with her teammates and coaches has taught her much more than critical thinking and public speaking skills. She has gained an appreciation for setting and working toward dreams and goals, no matter how lofty.
“We’ve been on the same team for six years, and we’ve all had a common goal of winning the state championship,” she said. “Having that goal for so long as a team and finally reaching it taught me that you might not reach your goal right away, but if you stick together and work hard enough, you can always reach your end goal.”