Arkansas 4-H forestry team wins national championship, a first for state
- All-Hermitage team takes top national honors at 37th annual competition
- Forestry Invitational featured identification, navigation and written exam
- Arkansas 4-H team beat 16 other teams for 1st place
(Newsrooms: With downloadable high-res art at https://flic.kr/p/NcQ65a ; RECASTS story; SUBS headline, lede, to reflect first-ever national title; SUBS dateline to CORRECT city name and state; subs 2nd graf to CORRECT ‘Heritage’ to ‘Hermitage’; SUBs 1st graf with three grafs adding details)
WESTON, W. Va. — A quartet of Arkansans from Bradley County has won the National 4-H Forestry Championship, bringing home the state’s first national title.
Taylor Gwin, a Hermitage High School teacher, Bradley County 4-H leader, and former 4-H member, coached the four-person team. The team was comprised of Hunter Saunders, Ethan Boykin, Cade Wilkerson and his brother Connor Wilkerson. All four members are from Hermitage.
On top of the national title, the Arkansas team chalked up high individual placements with Cade Wilkerson placing second overall and Connor Wilkerson earning fourth-place overall.
“It’s like anything else — you mix a lot of hard work and dedication, to get the kids prepared and get to the point where they’re competent enough to win,” Gwin said. “It takes a lot of long hours of looking at trees and reading maps to get them to that level.”
Arkansas placed first among 17 states that entered the 37th annual competition, which was held July 31 through Aug. 4 at West Virginia University Jackson’s Mill State 4-H Camp and Conference Center near Weston, West Virginia.
Teams from Tennessee and Florida placed second and third, respectively. Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin were also represented at this year’s invitational.
Gwin said that after attending and competing at several 4-H and Future Farmers of America forestry contests, his team studied intensely for four days prior to the national competition, concentrating on weaknesses they had each recognized during previous competitions.
“This is the team’s second year doing forestry,” Gwin said. “I’ve got two brothers on the team, and both of them are really intelligent, and they pushed the other two kids to do their best.
“If you had asked me three weeks prior to the competition if we were going to win a national contest, I’d have said we hadn’t studied enough and that we weren’t prepared to win,” he said. “But I guess the cramming and all the studying that we’d done in that four days stuck.”
Gwin said that although the team didn’t necessarily place first in each category of competition, it was their ability to consistently place among the top three or four teams in each competition that ultimately won them 1st Place overall.
Invitational events included tree identification, tree measurement, compass and pacing, insect and disease identification, topographic map use, forest evaluation, the forestry quiz bowl, and a written forestry exam.
“About 75 percent of it is walking in the woods,” Gwin said.
“You never forget a win,” he said. “You never forget your teammates’ faces the moment before you win a national championship.”
4-H is a youth education program operated by the Cooperative Extension Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the state land grant universities. More than six million youth, 540,000 volunteers, and 3,500 professionals participate in 4-H nationwide, and nearly 100,000 are part of the 4-H Forestry Program.
To learn more about Arkansas 4-H, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit http://www.uaex.edu/4h-youth/.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service