FFA team brings home national finalists

The Torrington-Lingle FFA chapter represents the entire state of Wyoming at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis. Pictured from left to right are Kaleb Booth, Addie Hanse, Hope Hager, Natalie Speckner, Klacie Groene, Holly Leiseth, Carleigh Dugger, Louden Bremer, Connor Booth and Addy Scott. Kelly Groene/Courtesy photo

GOSHEN COUNTY – It has been no secret that the Torrington-Lingle Future Farmers of America (FFA) Chapter is not just an extracurricular club, or activity for the students of the area. They have proven they truly are future providers of essential cornerstone aspects of this entire country.

After a solid showing at last spring’s state convention in Cheyenne by all who participated, three of those Torrington/Lingle-Fort Laramie teams proved they were more than capable of going beyond the state level and onto the national convention.

Under the leadership of Torrington High School (THS) educator, Jason Groene, along with the assistance of fellow THS teacher Sabrina Juma and wife Kelly, the Torrington/Lingle-Fort Laramie FFA state finalists traveled to the 96 Annual FFA National Convention and Expo in Indianapolis last weekend. 

The event was held from November 1 through November 4, with more than 72,000 FFA members nationwide in attendance.

With three state teams making the trip east towards the American Midwest, the months of endless study and preparation paid off with one team, Marketing Plan, convincing judges that their knowledge was worthy of being categorized as national finalists.

The second team of Livestock Evaluation missed being finalists with a close tie-breaker.

With all three teams representing their homes and chapter with the work ethic of experienced professionals, the Torrington/Lingle-Fort Laramie FFA leader couldn’t be prouder.

“The whole thing was great,” Groene stated. “We had an excellent trip because we took three teams out there, and one of the teams were national finalists. One lost on a tie breaker, so they got the short end of the stick. For Marketing Plan we had Klacie Groene, Carleigh Dugger and Addy Scott. The Livestock boys that tied to be the national finalists were Kaleb and Connor Booth, Sam Birdsall and Louden Bremer. Then our agronomy girls, who are very young, were in the top two in the Silver Division just outside the top ten. So we really did well.”

When it came to obstacles and challenges presenting themselves during the course of the competition itself, surprisingly enough there were not too many.

According to Groene, and wife Kelly, having the proper travel coordination to and from Indianapolis was a different story, but proved to be a success nevertheless. With the members having both high school and collegiate obligations, the Torrington/Lingle-Fort Laramie FFA group made sure nobody missed anything crucial back home.

“Transportation was definitley the biggest challenge,” Groene continued. “Since April we were just getting it all to work. We had our schedules that were crazy. We were here at the shop working, and we would Zoom the girls up in Casper all while they were playing sports and had their college schedules. Sam Birdsall had his football schedule, Connor and Kaleb had football and Natalie plays volleyball. Everybody wants to always talk about how busy the kids are, and this time when we say that it’s legit. We would have kids out at the house, or Zooming with them at eight or nine o’clock at night to make sure we were prepared to go. We had just the right amount of practice time.”

Despite leaders and students having incredibly busy schedules throughout all months of preparation, Groene attributed their success to one prime and leading factor to how it all became a success.

“I think it was just because the group of kids we took were so driven,” Groene continued. “They didn’t’ have one issue. Our schedule was chaotic and we had to fly and change a lot of plans. The Saturday before was playoff football and regional volleyball, so we changed three plane tickets in the span of two hours. We got done judging and got two of them back home so they could play ball.”

Despite the Torrington/Lingle-Fort Laramie FFA chapter being considered a small or even underdog chapter by other competing state’s standards, every student remained undeterred and unintimidated throughout the entire course of the convention. 

On top of competing head-to-head with larger populated states, Torrington/Lingle-Fort Laramie FFA members also took advantage of the opportunity to be noticed by certain out of state colleges who were present.

“It was a very easy and outstanding group,” Groene continued. “They were there to compete, and livestock was incredibly tough. The top four we had tied which never happens, so we hung right there with them like we were supposed to. Five seconds could have made the difference. We had some talking to college recruiters about going to school. We had three seniors on the trip, and the rest were underclassmen out of the 11 we took. Marketing Plan was right there with California, Washington and Iowa. We were top four in Marketing Plan. California has the largest FFA numbers in the nation, and our kids competed against them and other state champions like Texas and Oklahoma. They have hundreds. As a state we are always right there with them and do the sweepstakes at nationals. With what we do at home, we will always be right there with them.”

With a strong feeling of accomplishment along with the winter holidays fast approaching, Groene and the FFA chapter have earned some much needed time to breathe a little and focus on other activities and academics.

Be rest assured however that in due time, the FFA will be at it again preparing for another good show at the state convention this upcoming spring.

In the meantime Groene, Kelly and Juma are open and hopeful for more participation in the near future, particularly when it comes to extra help around the communities.

“We are going to try and get some more help,” Groene said. “We have gotten to the point where last year we took 45 kids to FFA convention, and one of those was only one volunteer. Kelly has donated her time for twenty years, and I would hate to guess the dollar amount she’s given up to help our kids. We just need more help and time. We almost have gotten to the point where we have more kids than we have spots for. With 45 kids we have to be very strategic on who we put where, and to make sure they are in the best spot possible.”

As far as reflection on the success of his chapter over the course of the last several months, Groene was convincing that the work and rewards always go back to the hard working relationships with the kids, and their families.

“Yes we are going to compete, but what you get out of them as far as being good upstanding young people is the bigger reward,” Groene finished. “When you get them out there, they will take care of what they need to be taking care of like homework and dressing appropriately. When they were told to be somewhere at a certain time, there was no hunting them down. They were where they needed to be. It makes it all so rewarding, and having a group to travel with is just the fun part of it.” 

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