The 2019 Virginia Tech Hokies Soil Judging Team took second place among 26 teams at the National Collegiate Soil Judging Championship hosted by California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, on April 14-18.

This was the second consecutive year in which the team has earned second place. The Hokies also finished in third place in the group judging event.

Sabrina Vladu ’19, environmental science major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, finished as the top individual out of 101 contestants. She is the second Hokie to win the top title in almost 60 years of contests. Vladu was asked to judge – describe and interpret the properties and lab data – of three soils. 

 

Virginia Tech’s National Championship first high individual, Sabrina Vladu.

Virginia Tech’s National Championship first high individual, Sabrina Vladu.
Virginia Tech’s National Championship first high individual, Sabrina Vladu.

“I am very proud of the consistent hard work and dedication that the team put in all semester, especially the seniors and recent graduates who have practiced for two full years or more. That preparation made their success possible. Now, they are fully capable soil scientists,” said coach John Galbraith, a professor in the college’s School of Plant and Environmental Sciences.

In the group judging event, the Hokies finished behind the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and ahead of the University of Missouri and the University Wisconsin, Stevens Point.

In the overall score – individual pits plus group judging pits – the Hokies finished just three points behind the University of Maryland (2431 to 2428), and ahead of schools that included the University Nebraska, Lincoln, North Carolina State University, and Kansas State University. Virginia Tech competes within the Southeast Region, which was well-represented with four of the top 10 teams in overall score, three of the top 10 in the group event, and three of the top 10 individuals.

The Virginia Tech team was led by Vladu, along with 12th-place finisher Christopher Moritz, a 2018 graduate who majored in environmental science; Ben Smith, a junior majoring in biological systems engineering; and, Cameron Bermand, a recent December graduate who majored in environmental science. Alternates who competed in the group judging event were Annie Konjevoda, a 2019 graduate who majored in environmental science; Morgan Ré, a junior majoring in biological systems engineering and English technical writing; Xuanyu “Peter” Guo, a junior majoring in environmental science; and, Isabella “Izzy” Fish, a 2019 graduate who majored in crop and soil science. The assistant coach was Jaclyn Fiola, a graduate student studying vineyard soils in Virginia.

“The team learned by traveling to the opposite side of the country to see soils, geology, plants, and agriculture they were unfamiliar with. They saw shrink-swell vertisols for the first time and unusual subsoils cemented by calcium carbonate,” said Galbraith. “Despite their unfamiliarity, they finished nearly at the top of the list of competing schools. This group has won two national championships and finished second twice, and third once. We are very proud of their accomplishments.”

 

 

2019 third place group soil judging team from Virginia Tech (left to right, front): Morgan Ré, Benjamin Smith, Isabella “Izzy” Fish, and Chris Moritz. (Back row): Xuanyu “Peter” Guo, Annie Konjevoda, Cameron Bermand, and Sabrina Vladu.

2019 third place group soil judging team from Virginia Tech.
2019 third-place group soil judging team from Virginia Tech (left to right, front): Morgan Ré, Benjamin Smith, Isabella “Izzy” Fish, and Chris Moritz. (Back row): Xuanyu “Peter” Guo, Annie Konjevoda, Cameron Bermand, and Sabrina Vladu.