Grapeland FFA Quiz team brings home national title
Houston County Courier
By Lynda Jones
Houston County's FFA chapters were well represented at the 86th National FFA Convention in Louisville, KY Oct. 26 - Nov. 2, and the Grapeland FFA Senior FFA Quiz team came home with the national title. One team member, Atlana Watson, was the high point scorer for the competition. The convention was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Louisville, KY. Grapeland's Senior FFA Quiz team was among 44 teams from across the United States and 143 individual competitors in the Senior division. The event was held Tuesday, Oct. 29. "The Grapeland team won the National Championship by a margin of over 22 points, with Atlana Watson winning first high individual," Grapeland High School Agriculture Science Teacher Gary Graham reported. Monic Davila won fourth high individual, Victoria Martin was sixth high individual, and Mary Wardell placed 27th in her first ever competition. "Atlana Watson has placed first high individual at every level from district to nationals at 9 out of 10 contests she has competed in," Graham said. Another star from the Grapeland FFA chapter was Elizabeth Conner, who competed in the National Talent Contest. She was awarded one of seven spots to sing on stage during the sessions that were televised live on RFDTV. To win the spot, Conner was one of only 50 contestants selected nationwide, and the only one from Texas in the pre-judging phase. She was required to send a video and cd in August for pre-judging, Graham explained. She learned in September that she had made it to the finals. Other Houston County FFA chapters that sent members to the convention included Crockett High School, Latexo High School and Lovelady High School. FFA President Michaela Gardner of the Lovelady FFA chapter served as a voting delegate and a member of the Imaging and Branding Committee. Leslie Murillo, Crockett FFA reporter, also checked in when the students returned. Murillo said, "The FFA traveled from Texas into Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana. They met other FFA members from all over the United States, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. They truly had a complete across-the-curriculum week. They learned history, agriculture, science, math and even English as they attended the convention." Murillo continued, "The opening session speaker for the 86th National FFA Convention was Rick Pitino, head coach of the 2012 National Championship Louisville Cardinals men's basketball team." "Crockett FFA members met and got signatures from students from every state in the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. "Members even got to meet Mountain Man from "Duck Dynasty". They saw Easton Corbin and Dodge Ram Truck present a check for $1 million to the National FFA. "The team was astonished by speed painter Dan Dunn as he painted the American Eagle and he created a colorful masterpiece to commemorate 80 years since the adoption of the official FFA jacket." The Latexo FFA took five members of its officer team. They were accomponied by their agriculture science teachers, Mark Blackmon and Victoria Marlin. "Once the Latexo FFA arrived at the convention, the students were able to mingle with 55,000 other FFA members from all over the country. The morning consisted of seeing the expo center and determining what the students wanted to do first," Marlin explained. "In the afternoons the students were able to attend sessions that talked about what the FFA is truly about. They gained the knowledge of leadership as well as the privileges they hold while being in FFA. "The students felt very proud once they left and listened to several motivational speakers. This convention is such a great opportunity for students to grow as an FFA member." At the conclusion of the convention, Brian Walsh of Virginia was elected as the 2013-14 National FFA president. En route to the convention, Houston County's FFA delegations stopped to tour Churchill Downs and visit Millionaire Row. "They stood by the paddock where all the past winners of the Kentucky Derby were saddled, winners such as Spend A Buck, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Secretariat as well as the other 10 Triple Crown winners, including the only Triple Crown winner bred in Texas (off the King Ranch), Assault. The only other horse bred in Texas was also from the King Ranch, Middleground. To date there have only been 11 Triple Crown winners," Murillo said. Marlin reported, "The five (Latexo FFA) students had never been to Louisville, KY nor had they driven up in that part of the country. As we drew closer to Louisville, we first allowed the students to tour Nashville, TN. "During this stop the students got the chance to take a back stage tour of the Grand Ole Opry. They were taught the history of the building as well as the many country singers that have sung there. There was also time for the officers to go to the souvenir shops along the streets of Nashville." Murillo said, "The (Crockett FFA) officer team walked down Music Row in Nashville, TN and stood in the place where many country music stars have stood, such as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn and Johnny Cash, while on the way to Ernest Tubb's Record Shop. "They were able to see the Tennessee Titans football stadium which is at the end of historic Music Row. They also learned that all the steel in the stadium came from Grapeland." Crockett FFA officers also toured the Louisville Bat Factory where they saw 2013 World Series bats being made. "The history of the All-American past time was amazing," Murillo said. "The Crockett FFA experienced things that not many students get to experience in a lifetime," Murillo said. "The Crockett FFA would like to thank, once again, all the people who made this trip possible with your gifts and donations; we would not have been able to have this amazing opportunity if not for your generosity and support. Thank you!" In addition to Murillo, the Crockett FFA was represented at the national convention by Jared Netardus, Brook McCoy, Leslie Murillo, David McNabb, Nicole Hardin, Tori Hughes and Makayla Gardner. Latexo students who attended included Chase Hutcherson, Rowdy Furrh, Madison Mask, Mellissa Noyola and Rachelle Marcus. "These students were chosen to go due to all the hard work they have put in over the years. This is such a great honor the students hold to have been able to go and represent that chapter," Marlin explained. "Other students within the Latexo FFA often ask what it takes to go on this trip and it's simple. They must each work for this. These five officers were able able to gain about $1,500 in sponsors. This helped the chapter pay their way for hotels as well as meal money. This was a requirement for the students to go." "We would like to take the time to thank our . . . sponsors. The sponsors will be given a special gift from the officers as well. We cannot thank (them) enough. They are the ones that made this trip a reality for these five students." Lovelady students that made the trip included Rhonda Gardner, Jonathan Dunbar, Caitlin Robinson, Jordan Wooley, Katie Ray, Michaela Gardner. They were accompanied by David Christie, their agriculture science teacher. Grapeland High School Agriculture Science Teacher Gary Graham accompanied the following Grapeland FFA students: Monic Davila, Victoria Martin, Mary Wardell, Atlana Watson and Elizabeth Conner.