More than 80 spectators gathered in the main arena at the Washington County Ag Expo and Fair on Friday morning to watch this year’s 4-H/FFA Beef Heifer and Open Class Beef Cattle shows.
The lone adult taking center stage in the competition of youngsters aged 8 to 10 was Ruth Boden of Clear Brook, Va.
The 45-year-old Boden said she has been judging beef heifers since she was 9 years old.
Boden, who is a volunteer 4-H leader, helps run a commercial cow operation with her husband and three sons. She also works for MidAtlantic Farm Credit.
Before she graduated, Boden was a member of Virginia Tech’s judging team. She also served on the state judging team, she said.
In Friday’s competition, Boden said she was looking for structural correctness, femininity, volume, depth of body and muscle in the beef heifers. She said she was pleased with both the young exhibitors’ performance and the cattle.
Fourteen-year-old Rachel Clark and her heifer claimed the prize for grand champion 4-H heifer.
Rachel also won awards for her reserve grand champion open class heifer, and her champion and reserve champion Shorthorns.
“I love the feeling of getting that handshake,” Rachel said of winning the grand champion title.
The Mercersburg, Pa., resident, who is entering ninth grade at James Buchanan High School, also showed lambs this year, for which she won reserve champion for best pair of lambs and champion lamb showman in her intermediate age group.
She also had two second-place lambs and was named champion intermediate beef showman.
The hardest part of showing heifers, Rachel said, is keeping the front feet set — especially because they are such large animals.
Rachel, who has been with 4-H for five years, said, by far, her favorite aspect of competing is showmanship.
Ashley Wiles, 12, of Keedysville, has been involved in 4-H for five years.
In Friday’s competition, Ashley’s beef heifer won first place in its class. She was one of seven breed finalists to compete for the grand champion and reserve grand champion positions in the 4-H section of judging.
Ashley said she got started with 4-H because “I just liked cows.”
Her mother said Ashley’s father used to show cows.
Ashley also showed lambs and steers in this year’s ag expo.
The hardest part of the weeklong venture was the market sale, which was held Thursday evening, Ashley and her mother said.
Gunner Crawford, 12, continued showing animals Friday morning with his yearling heifer, who was named reserve grand champion in the All Other Breeds category.
The Adamstown, Md., resident also showed turkeys and pigs.
He had the champion light- and middle-weight swine and won the award for grand champion market hog. He was also named grand champion intermediate swine showman.
Gunner, who will enter seventh grade at Ballenger Creek Middle School this fall, said he plans to continue showing next year. He has been with 4-H for two years, he said.
The hardest part of showing is “trying to stay calm,” Gunner said.
He has a younger sister, Mackenzy Crawford, who has also been showing in this year’s competitions.
— Karen Mawdsley