Routt County livestock judging team cleans up |

Routt County livestock judging team cleans up

Luke Graham

Members of the Routt County 4-H Livestock Judging Team celebrate after taking the top two places at a competition in Gunnison. Pictured are, back row from left, coach Rod Wille, Hallie Myhre, Tell Belton, Abbey Horn, Will Anderson and Anthony Sisto; and front row from left, Tristan Singer, Emmitt Meyring, Bailey Singer, Katelyn Olinger, Hannah Hayes, Grace Olinger and Kayla Wille.

— Rod Wille has seen a lot in 16 years as coach of the Routt County 4-H Livestock Judging Team.

He took a team to Louisville, Ky., a couple of years ago and won a national title in cattle judging.

But Wille never had seen anything like the pair of junior competitions May 17 and 18 in Gunnison, where his two teams swept the top two spots, beating out 13 teams. Among the 69 people competing, the Routt County team also placed seven in the top 10. Tell Belton, Will Anderson and Grace Olinger were named first team all-state.

"It was impressive," Wille said. "It's great they are all learning and getting the hang of it. They're a good group of kids. They’re smart and pay attention. They work hard at it."

The junior team, comprising children ages 8 to 13, look at 10 pens of four animals. They spend 10 minutes looking at goats, sheep, cattle and hogs, eventually evaluating and ranking each animal. They compile and memorize their notes before offering to a panel of judges reasons why they ranked animals where they did.

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The competitors then are scored individually and as a team based on how they ranked the livestock compared with the officials.

"I like that you get to be around livestock," 11-year-old Kayla Wille said about being on the team. "It teaches you to be confident and to to be more accurate."

The team, which also is coached by Rod Olinger and Nick Elliott, practices twice each week beginning in March and continuing through the final competitions in May, with competitions typically on weekends.

"I think we have a lot of talented kids right now," Rod Wille said. "The goals they set at the beginning of the year kept them really focused. They understand what good livestock is and have to be good in their reasons. It's a lifelong skill to make a decision and back it up and tell another person."

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email

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