Sunday, April 1, 2012

Friday – Team Contest Day – Awards Ceremony and 18 hours of Driving to Minnesota

I get up early and the guys are ready by 6:30 for our 7:00 am departure, then I see a team leaving and remember that we have to be at the NRCS office at 7:00, so we gather up all and leave at 7:45.  Without much traffic we still arrive in time.  We travel for 30 minutes to a farm about 13 miles from our meeting place.  

 The contest starts under cloudy, dark skies with the radar showing rain on the way.  The first site is completed in the dry and after 50 minutes the teams change places.  Minnesota does a great job on this site and scores 286/294 for 93%,  At the next site that has a Btx1 and Btx2 the rain begins and the team has to work under an umbrella.  They still are able to collect their samples but their coloring suffers along with determining the brittleness of the Btx horizons. 

At ten we are headed back to the motel to clean up and wait for the contest awards which are scheduled for 2 pm.  We have some lunch, then stop for coffee and fill out post cards that will be sent to the donors who helped support our trip.  We arrive at the school at 2:00 and here the awards will now be at 3.  At three nothing happens and eventually at 4:10 the Awards start.  Virginia Tech is first, Maryland second and Iowa State was third.  We don’t see the placing’s but do know we did not make the top 10 team or total and no Minnesotan broke into the top 10. I guess we won’t know our placing’s until he sends us a copy.   At 4:30 we are on the road to Minnesota.

The trip home is long.  We find two road construction areas going north in to Pennsylvania and waste and hour.  We finally get off the freeway and cut through Washington Penn., and connect with 74 west.  We have to detour around Indianapolis around 11 pm as they are having a very bad thunderstorm.  We stop for gas and driver changes.  Nora has a close call as a guy misses his off ramp and comes back onto the freeway and almost hits us in the side.   

Tom and Blair take us across Ill and Wisconsin from midnight to 6:30 when we stop at the Norske Nook in Osseo Wisconsin.  I have eggs, taters and blueberry crumble pie.  All have a good breakfast and some take a piece of pie for later.  We arrive at the soils barn, unload and I take the kids home to their appartments. We have completed a very successful National Soil Judging trip to West Virginia.  We have learned a lot and had a good time visiting with students and professors from other campuses.    I learned that next year the National will be at Plattville Wisconsin. 

Results: Minnesota finishes in 15th place at the National Soil Judging Contest, hosted by West Virginia University in Morgantown West Virginia.  Team members this spring were the same five students that competed at the regional in South Dakota in October 2011.  The team members  were Melissa Collins-Rutter who lives in Minneapolis and is a Global Studies major with a minor in Sustainable Agriculture.   Thomas Bolas is a senior in ESPM living in St. Paul.   Kate Edmond is a Senior in ESPM and is from Hopkins, Minnesota.  Blair Bollig, an ESPM senior, is also from Hopkins/Minnentonka area of the Twin Cities.  Nora Newsom an ESPM senior is from Chicago and New Hampshire, and also calls Northern Minnesota home.  The team finished 15th place in the team judging, but were in 3rd place after the first site where they only missed 9 points out of 243.  However, at team pit 2 the rain started in the 40 degree temperatures and the fragipan that was in horizon 4 and 5 was missed by the Minnesotans.  They just don’t  see very many in the home state, especially in the rain which made the brittle properties of the fragipan less than brittle and more like mud.  In the individual three pits,  Nora finished in 15th place out of the 84 contestants.   Virginia Tech was 1st, Maryland 2nd and Iowa State was 3rd.    

A great learning experience was enjoyed by all the contestants from the 21 teams that traveled to West Virginia.  Next year the National is in Platteville Wisconsin.   

Home Sweet Home!

The team is finally out of the land of pepperoni rolls and back to the land of lutefisk. We actually arrived back in the Twin Cities around 9:30 this morning, but several naps were needed before a blog post could commence. We drove throughout the night, managing to avoid severe thunderstorms and irresponsible mergers and even getting some hours of sleep and studying in.

This all comes, of course, after a day that saw us leaving our hotel at 6:45am for the team contest sites, competing, packing, and the awards ceremony. As if being intellectually challenging wasn't enough, the sites were physically taxing as well; one was up a mountain (I know West Virginians would consider it a "hill" but I had to climb up it with all my gear, so I say it's a mountain) and the rain poured throughout our time at the second site, which made texturing, coloring, and everything else associated with soil judging, difficult (for future reference, "waterproof scorecards" will prevent your pencil lead from smearing, but not from tearing the writing surface from the page, #crisis).

Following the contest, checking out of the hotel, and lunch, we made it back to campus in time for the 2:00 awards ceremony. We were disappointed when the ceremony didn't start until 3:40 and even more disappointed to find that we did not place in the top five for Team or Overall and none of us placed in the top ten for Individual. Sad day. Apparently, there was a fragipan present at the second site; we didn't identify it and that cost us quite a few points at that site.

At the time of this posting, the officials haven't circulated the full rankings, so we're still fairly in the dark as far as how we did. We did get our graded scorecards back; there was a lot of frustrated sighing and grumbling in the car as we looked them over, as we had made some silly mistakes. I, for example, identified a Cr horizon, but didn't list Residuum as the parent material. Why? No idea. Maybe I cracked under the pressure. That wasn't even the site where I ripped my pants, dropped my samples, and lost my trowel.

Regardless of our score, we all had a blast and appreciate the opportunity to compete at the national level. We hope you've enjoyed following our progress along the way! Keep checking back, as there will certainly be more posts, pictures, and videos (!) in the coming days.