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Soil Judging Team takes 8th at 2019 Nationals; Zemitis in 4th and Rella in 11th

Posted: April 23, 2019

The Penn State Soil Judging Team placed 8th at the National Collegiate Soil Judging Contest in San Luis Obispo, California. The contest was held the week of April 14th in the area around Morro Bay, San Luis Obispo and Santa Margarita.
L-R: Dr. Patrick Drohan, Anne McGraw, Samantha Zaner, Dan Wesdock, Nancy Bao, Nicole Rella, Gib Blew, PhD studetn Caitlin Hodges. Kneeling left, Craig Zemitis and right, Brandy Savani

L-R: Dr. Patrick Drohan, Anne McGraw, Samantha Zaner, Dan Wesdock, Nancy Bao, Nicole Rella, Gib Blew, PhD studetn Caitlin Hodges. Kneeling left, Craig Zemitis and right, Brandy Savani

Between April 14th and 19th students from Penn State competed at the 2019 National Collegiate Soil Judging Contest hosted by Cal Poly near San Luis Obispo, CA.

The contest is an annual event, which allows students to practice describing and interpreting soils and landscapes against different schools from around the country. 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 at the National contest practiced describing soils representative of Mollisols, Vertisols, Alfisols, and Aridisols. Twenty-six schools from across the United States competed this year (the largest contest in the history of soil judging).

  1. Univ. of Maryland took first (2431 pts),
  2. Virginia Tech second (2428 pts),
  3. Univ. of Nebraska, Lincoln third (2421 pts),
  4. North Carolina State Univ. fourth (2409 pts),
  5. Kansas State Univ. fifth (2403 pts),

Penn State State finished eighth with 2388 points (just 43 points behind first place) and was coached by Dr. Drohan and PhD student Caitlin Hodges. Penn State's Craig Zemitis took 4th and Nicole Rella 11th.

Penn State's team consisted of: Brandy Savani (Env. Res. Mgmt., from Pittsburgh, PA), Craig Zemetis (Env. Res. Mgmt., from Hummelstown, PA), Samantha Zaner (Env. Res. Mgmt., Quakertown, PA), Anne McGraw (Env. Res. Mgmt., from Warriors Mark, PA), Nancy Bao, (Env. Res. Mgmt., from Collegeville, PA), Gib Blew (Env. Res. Mgmt., from Cranberry, PA), Dan Wesdock (Env. Res. Mgmt., from Bel Air, PA), and Nicole Rella (Ag. Biol. Eng., from Montville, NJ).

101 students competed in the contest’s individual component (many more were there as alternates). Coach Patrick Drohan said “The weather, pits, and landscape were gorgeous. The students really enjoyed the sunny skies and warm temperatures. Making it to California was a rare experience and the students really valued the experience. Penn State's performance showed that the students worked hard, learned a lot and had a lot of fun." To see what goes on at a contest, watch this video by Chico State's Irfan Ainuddin: 

Dr. Drohan urged anyone interested in supporting the team to contribute to the squad's travel fund here: http://soiljudging.psu.edu/. Getting to California was very costly.

Drohan noted that Penn State teams have participated in national and regional soil-judging competitions since 1960. 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.

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