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Illinois 4-H teams make history in Louisville

Illinois 4-H team poses with ribbons and medals.

Louisville, Ky. -- Illinois 4-H had a record-breaking day at the North American International Livestock Exposition. For the first time ever, Illinois 4-H won the National 4-H Quiz Bowl. For the second year in a row, Illinois 4-H won the National 4-H Skillathon. This is the first time in Illinois 4-H history to have two teams from Illinois take home national champion titles in the same year. In addition, the Illinois 4-H livestock judging team was named reserve national champion in the National 4-H Livestock Judging Contest.

“Coaching these kids is easy,” says coach Eric Fugate of Mahomet, Ill. “All I do is wind them up and turn them loose. Their thirst for new livestock knowledge is incredible and they not only seek out skills, but then make it their job to teach their teammates. It is not an accident that both teams were national champions because they constantly lifted their teammates up and were each other’s biggest cheerleaders.”

Watching the kids gain confidence, increase their communications skills, enhance their ability to be a contributing teammate and sharpen their decision-making skills draws Fugate back to coach the teams year after year. Plus, he enjoys the challenge of helping train the next generation of leaders in agriculture.

“Both of these ‘big brain’ events are invaluable for academic and career development for the kids that participate in it,” Fugate says. “I tell the kids that they will get an easy ‘A’ in their introductory animal science course in college because they will already be skilled in all things that the class covers. Every kid seems to grow from the experience and really come out of it wanting to mentor the next generation of ‘big brain’ livestock kids.”

The Illinois 4-H Skillathon Team won first place in the National 4-H Skillathon with a score of 1,568 points. Team members included Davis Howell of DeWitt County, Ellie Drach of Livingston County, Hannah Miller of Livingston County, and Adam Stuckemeyer of Effingham County.

Individual Skillathon highlights included Hannah Miller of Livingston County placing third overall and Davis Howell of DeWitt County placing sixth overall.

The Illinois 4-H Quiz Bowl Team won the National 4-H Quiz Bowl with team members Blaine Homann of Coles County, Chase Hummel of Kankakee County, Isabel Pistorius of Christian County, Hunter Shike of Champaign County, and Olivia Shike of Champaign County. They were coached by Fugate and Dale Hummel.

Individual Quiz Bowl highlights included Chase Hummel of Kankakee County placing second overall and Olivia Shike of Champaign County placing third overall.

In addition, the Illinois 4-H livestock judging team took home reserve national champion honors. Team members included The Illinois 4-H Livestock Team that competed included Braydon DeCounter of Fulton County, Cole Freebairn of LaSalle County, Carter Hoge of McDonough County, Anna Webel of Knox County, and Slone Windish of Peoria County. The team was coached by Nate Brookshire.

Individual Livestock Judging highlights include Cole Freebairn of LaSalle County placing third overall and Carter Hoge of McDonough County placing seventh overall.

“Coaching the Illinois State 4-H team has been a tremendously rewarding experience for myself. Working with some of the sharpest and brightest young minds, who are also incredibly talented stockmen, has truly been a blessing,” Brookshire says. “Beyond the banners, ribbons and buckles, the life skills and comradery gained in the judging van is truly unrivaled by any other activity. I have all the faith in the world that the young people on the reserve high team at the national contest will be fierce competitors in both junior and senior college, but more importantly they will exceptional people who will truly impact agriculture in a positive manner.“   

The Illinois 4-H livestock skillathon, quiz bowl and livestock judging teams would like to thank the Illinois State 4-H office and Illinois State 4-H Foundation for their support to be able to attend these events and represent the state of Illinois.

Source: Dan Jennings, 4-H Livestock Educator,

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