by ADAM GRUENEWALD
The Central High School FFA group is coming off of a banner year, culminating at the State FFA championships held in late April.
For the first time in recent memory, the FFA had several standout members statewide as Brandon Fabel finished first in prepared public speaking and the dairy cow judging group comprised of Jennifer Oelfke, Caleb, Collin and Carley Vinkemeier finished third and were honored on stage as well.
Fabel and other FFA members will attend the National FFA competition in Louisville, Ky., from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, according to FFA Advisor Jim Mesik, who has led the group for the past four years.
“We were planning on going anyway, but now we will have a student compete which is a major bonus,” he said.
Mesik, who teaches ag science classes who took over for longtime advisor Jim Swiggum, was pleased with the group’s performance at state.
“I knew he (Brandon) would do really well, but to get first is really awesome,” said Mesik. “You never really anybody to win going into it, but if anybody could, he could.”
The dairy judging group stood out as well.
“They know each other real well,” he said. “They know what they are doing and they are an easy team to coach.”
While Central does have a strong tradition in dairy judging with groups previously going to state, Mesik is excited about the FFA team as a whole, especially considering their youth of most of the members.
“Things are strong and it’s good,” said Mesik.
At the forefront of the FFA group is Fabel, a junior, who had perfected his speech on the asian carp invasion and how to get rid of the invasive species which is causing habitat destruction.
In his speech Fabel suggested closing off the Chicago canal to prevent spread into the great lakes, fishing them out and selling them to Asia and, once the population is reduced, genetically engineering them with a male gene to have the population die out.
Having taken part in speech at Central since he was an eighth-grader, Fabel was looking for a less controversial topic compared to others he had given on farm subsidies and tort reform.
“This one is easy, cut and dry, everybody wants to get rid of them,” he said. “How do we do that?”
Fabel started preparing for his speech back in February, crafting it for the Central speech team led by Laura Hanson. For the speech team, he advanced to state in extemporaneous speaking in April and also presented his prepared speech.
For the final round of prepared public speaking at the FFA state competition at University of Minnesota, Fabel delivered his speech in front of four judges and a few observers.
“When I first got there I thought I’d be fine,” he said. “But when I got called to the finals, there was a little bit of nerves.”
Keeping in mind all of his efforts and prior deliveries of his speech, which number at least 30, Fabel calmed down and surpassed his goals.
“That was my goal for this year,” he said of making it to state. “Ever since eighth grade when I went to sections, I always kind of stalled out at sections in state speech… This year my goal was to get to state in both speech and FFA. Once that happened, I told myself whatever happens here is just icing on the cake.”
His parents, Kent and Lisa, and brother, Justin, were huge supporters as well as they heard his speech throughout its development.
While Justin is an eighth-grader, he has been involved in FFA for a longer time, giving Fabel an idea what the group is all about before he joined it as a sophomore.
“The one thing I like about FFA is that it’s so many things you can do,” he said. “You can take so many different routes and learn so many different activities.”
Looking ahead, Fabel, who is also an offensive lineman for Central football team, said he wants to get into business, get a law degree and end up in politics.
Taking part in FFA and speech has certainly given him confidence to pursue those goals.
“It prepares you for so many things down the road,” he said. “When I do presentations in class it’s just comes naturally. There’s no stress there because I’ve been in front of judges where I know they are critiquing every thing you do.”
The dairy cow judging group was excited about their performance as well, a culmination of their hours of practice.
“We’ve been preparing since the regional event in October,” said Jennifer, adding the experience at state was fun. “We worked together as a group in the beginning and then we did our individual part, judging the animals,” In addition to bringing in their own background working on family farms, the group took advantage of local farms to practice.
“When we prepared for state we went to a nearby farm (Stenders Dairy Farm) to practice,” said Carley. “They gave us the cows and made up some classes.”
Other highlights at state included the horse evaluation team of Kahlie Kroells, Grace Cummiskey, Cala Cochran and Leah Mueller finishing 15th; fish and wildlife group of Taylor Trick, Cody Baker and Cole Sauter finishing 22nd, the ag mechanics group of Dakota Schneider, Matt Paul and Joe Rademacher taking 22nd, dairy cattle handler Lizzie Jimenez earning bronze, Matt Ditsch taking part in poultry and finishing 47th, and the forestry team of Fabel, Jordan Stevens, Blake Teubert and Chase Schripp finishing 29th. Karl Dettmann took part in the FFA Band and Cynthia Favela was a representative for the chapter.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]