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by Mark Cheffey
The Palmyra FFA’s floriculture team didn’t just win the national title during the national FFA convenction in Indianapolis two weeks ago, they dominated.
The fact that three of the four team members placed in the top four including Ji Yong Ni winning top individual, with Evan Nierman finishing runner-up and Tim Wellman fourth while Augustine Mahsman also earned a gold rating very much sealed the deal.
“We pretty much knew we had won it,” Wellman said, noting the individual placings were announced before the team winners were honored, as Palmyra’s first national champion FFA team.
Their coach, Amanda Haeberlin, even knew the team, which took first place in state competition as well, had the makings for national champions going in.
“They are extremely intelligent and extremely hard working,” Haeberlin said of the quartet.
Still, not only would the 40 other teams from around the country, provide tough competition, but the contest itself would be completely different.
Haeberlin said the state contest centered mainly around questions and answers, testing teams for their knowledge of the subject, while the national contest would put them to the supreme test as a team for not only knowledge, but creativity and team work.
National contest components included:
• plant and tool identification;
• disorder diagnosis and treatment;
• general knowledge exam;
• problem solving practicum;
• one-on-one sales;
• growing procedures (greenhouse skill based);
• floral arrangement design; and
• team activity.
Team members and Haeberlin gave considerable credit in preparing for nationals to two outside helpers.
Haeberlin said they were fortunate to be able to hook up with Julia Marie Schmidt of Busy Bee Florist in Marceline, who has judged on the national level and helped the team be ready for the little unexpected details.
Gretta Stark also provided some tips.
The team got to be honored in front of two audiences, first before all the floriculture competitors and also in front of the entire convention attendees numbering over 10,000 gathered in Lucas Oil Stadium.
Strangely enough, none of the four team members plans to pursue floriculture as a future vocation.
Wellman said he plans to go into plant science, but Yong Ni and Mahsman plan pursue engineering and Niermann is looking toward zoology.
Still, winning top honors will help them move on into their choices for study, not only by providing an impressive accomplishment to list on their college applications but through scholarship money both from the local and national levels.
Palmyra has had two teams place second at nationals in the past.
Former FFA sponsor, Frank Caldwell coached a second place farm management team, that included Augustine’s father, Luke Mahsman, who as a Palmyra FFA sponsor, also coached a runner-up farm management team.
The floriculture team was not the only Palmyra recipient of FFA honors at the convention.
Brett Griesbaum and Chase Goldinger received prestigious American Degree honors.