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Soil Judging Team takes 6th at 2014 Nationals; Kammerer to attend International Contest in Korea

Posted: April 9, 2014

Between March 29th and April 4th five students from Penn State competed at the 2014 National Collegiate Judging Contest hosted by Delaware Valley College, Doylestown PA.
Left to Right: Coach Patrick Drohan, Nancy Kammerer, Greg Ritson, Kaitlyn Benson, Devon Turner, Rachael Krizmanich.

Left to Right: Coach Patrick Drohan, Nancy Kammerer, Greg Ritson, Kaitlyn Benson, Devon Turner, Rachael Krizmanich.

Between March 29th and April 4th five students from Penn State competed at the 2014 National Collegiate Judging Contest hosted by Delaware Valley College, Doylestown PA. The contest is an annual event, which allows students to practice describing and interpreting soils and landscapes against different schools from around the country. The top schools from each region compete at a Fall regional competition in order to qualify for the National event held the following Spring. This year, students practiced describing soils formed in the Piedmont Province, Reading Prong Province and from glacial outwash materials in southeastern Pennsylvania. Nineteen teams competed  from as far away as Oregon, California, and Texas.

Penn State's team consisted of: Kaitlyn Benson, a junior Environmental Resource Management (ERM) major from Elizabethtown, PA; Nancy Kammerer, a junior Agroecology major from Gettysburg, PA; Rachael Krizmanich, a senior ERM major from Edinboro, PA; Greg Ritson, a junior ERM major from Limerick, PA; and Devon Turner, a junior ERM major from Phillipsburg, PA.

Penn State finished 6th overall as a team and 15th in Group judging.

Seventy-six students competed in the contest’s individual component. Kammerer placed 3rd; Turner placed 21st, Krizmanich 37th, Benson 65th and Greg Ritson was this year's alternate. Coach Patrick Drohan, Associate Professor of Pedology, said “It has been great to see the team consistently improving over the last several years. We have some good depth of talent now, which is reflected in the contest results and in our students quickly attaining good jobs after graduation."

Nancy Kammerer's third place finish resulted in her qualifying to travel to Korea in June to compete in the first International soil judging contest to be hosted at the World Congress of Soil Science. The International Union of Soil Science holds the World Congress every four years. Kammerer's travel is entirely supported by the Soil Science Society of America.

Penn State teams have participated in national and regional soil-judging competitions since the 1950s, Drohan noted. The contest is part of the Soil Science Society of America's commitment to soils education and provides participating students with an opportunity to see new soils and to test their skills against peers from across the region.

"This year's weather was incredibly challenging for Delaware Valley College and the contestants" Drohan said. Just 3 weeks prior to the contest the practice and contest pits had 2 feet plus snow. Conditions during the first day of practice were some of the rawest Drohan had seen with thirty mile an hour cross winds and heavy rain. "The students really hung in there, had a lot of fun, and saw some really neat soils" Drohan said.

The contest organizer has ties to Penn State through his Family. Soil Scientist Joe Valentine, adjunct professor at Delaware Valley College, has a grandfather (Joe Valentine) who was a golf superintendent at Marion Country Club in southeastern Pennsylvania. The Penn State Turfgrass program's turf plots are named after Joe's grandfather.

The team will attend Regionals in the Fall, again at Delaware Valley College. Traveling to contests is a great experience for the students, but costly, Drohan pointed out. He urged anyone interested in supporting the team to contribute to the squad's travel fund here: http://soiljudging.psu.edu/

For more information about the team, and the 60 year+ history of Soil Judging at Penn State, see: http://soiljudging.psu.edu/.