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Sherman Students Win At Indy FFA Expo Competition

A team of four students from Sherman, including Eric Witherow, Emily Starceski, Josephine Allen and Henry Meeder, recently competed at the FFA Expo in Indianapolis. Submitted photo

SHERMAN — “It was big. I’ve never really been to an event that big. … We prepared for it, but it’s a big switch going from Sherman to Indianapolis.”

This was how Sherman Central School junior Henry Meeder summed up his experience at the 92nd National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis from Oct. 29 to Nov. 1. Meeder was one of four Sherman students who won the state competition in the Agricultural Mechanics Division in the spring. The actual competition took place on Oct. 30 and 31.

“It’s a much bigger stage,” Meeder said about the event, which was attended by more than 69,000 people. The annual competition brings together the winning teams in 47 separate categories from all 50 states, representing 8,630 local FFA chapters.

“To see the magnitude of people at Indianapolis was amazing,” said Sherman AG teacher Kelly Maleski. “They went to Pacer’s Stadium for a concert. They had two performances and the stadium was packed full for both.”

Meeder’s category hosted 45 teams and the competition was tough. “You know everybody there deserves to be there,” Meeder said. “We prepared for it and I feel we did really well as a team.

Meeder’s team, which consisted of himself, and three Sherman 2018 graduates, Eric Witherow, Josephine Allen and Emily Starceski, placed in the Silver division.

“In placing silver, we were in the middle of the pack,” Meeder said. Also, as individuals, Meeder and Witherow, both earned silver medals. “Out of 180 people, it’s a big accomplishment to beat more than half of them.”

Maleski noted that, since three of the team members are in college, Meeder was really the only one who could prepare for the competition.

“It was a shock for me that they really did that well,” she said. “We were really glad to get in the middle. To prepare the other team members was really difficult.”

Another team from Sherman won first place in the state competition in the category of Agricultural Sales and, therefore, qualified for the national competition. The team, which consisted of Sherman student Kinsey Witherow and three Sherman 2018 graduates, Gwen Chase, Megan Van Valkenburg and Rebekah Lee, was unable to participate at the national level because of scheduling conflicts.

Meeder’s team was tested in five categories of Agricultural Mechanics, plus given a written test. Over a period of two days, participants demonstrate their skills for about eight hours each day.

“The category is super broad, anything you can build or make work,” Meeder said. “It’s almost all hands-on. You either fix the machinery, or weld or fix electrical circuits.”

Each participant faces the same challenge in the areas of machinery and equipment, electricity, compact equipment, structures and environmental and natural resources. “We practiced masonry, plumbing, electrical, and so much more,” Maleski said.

For instance, Meeder said, in the category of machinery and equipment, students had to diagnose the problem with a Caterpillar skid steer loader.

Meeder’s team scored the best in the category of compact equipment. The students were challenged to reassemble a Koehler engine that had the rocker arms and push rods removed.

The student’s final challenge was 90-minute written exam which consisted of 25 multiple choice questions. The state competition featured a similar exam, however, “the questions got a little harder and a little bigger,” Meeder said.

Meeder said the experience at Indianapolis helped him to feel more competent, especially with troubleshooting. “There’s quite a bit I gained by going to nationals,” he said. “I’m a lot more confident with electrical.”

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