Virginia Tech’s Soil Judging Team won first place at the Southeast Region Collegiate Soil Judging Contest for the second year in a row. The event took place near Morgantown, W.Va., on Oct. 7.

Team members are all students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences. They are

  • Austin Gardner, of Round Hill, Va., a senior crop and soil environmental sciences major;
  • Chris Heltzel, of Maurertown, Va., a junior crop and soil environmental sciences major;
  • Blake Krecji, of Vienna, Va., a senior environmental science major;
  • Melanie Letalik, of Fairfax, Va., a senior environmental science major;
  • Kelly McMillen, of Chesapeake, Va., a senior environmental science major; and
  • Heather Taylor, of Blacksburg, Va., a senior crop and soil environmental sciences major. 

Team members McMillen and Letalik earned the second- and third-highest individual scores, respectively, with Taylor and Gardner also placing in the top 20. John Galbraith, professor of crop and soil environmental sciences, coached the team.

In the competition, each team described the soil in four different pits, with the goal of matching their answers with those of the official judges. Many of the pits were muddy from recent rain in the area, covering the students’ boots in orange and maroon mud — Virginia Tech’s official colors.

“I knew it was a good omen because of the color of the mud,” Galbraith said.

Most of the students prepared for the event by practicing on the weekends and taking the “Soil Description and Interpretation” course.

“Being prepared ahead of time allowed the students to be relaxed and confident during the contest,” Galbraith said. “The students put themselves in position to win by voluntarily going out to practice on Fridays and Sundays. However, like true Hokie fans, we always made time to attend football games and have some fun in between (and during) the practice sessions.”

The competition included 10 schools from the region, with the University of Tennessee-Knoxville earning second place and Auburn University placing third. All six students on the team will represent Virginia Tech in April 2012 at the National Championship Contest hosted by West Virginia University.

 

 

Written by Kelly Robinson, a senior majoring in communications and international studies and an intern for the Office of Communications and Marketing in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.