GREENFIELD — It’s a lot harder than it looks.
Herding unfamiliar animals around an arena in one of the Hancock County 4-H Fair’s highest levels of competition is a test only a handful of local kids could successfully undertake.
On Thursday at the 4-H Supreme Showmanship contest, 15-year-old Evan Witte was named the champion, and Jacob Shoufler was given the reserve champion award. Evan will be a sophomore at Eastern Hancock High School this fall and originally showed sheep this year. He said he plans to attend junior college and judge livestock before moving on to Oklahoma State University. Jacob, 16, will be a junior at Greenfield-Central High School in the fall and originally showed beef to rise to the supreme showmanship level. He said he plans to attend Purdue University and eventually become an ag teacher.
Both young men were excited – and surprised – by their strong finishes Thursday night.
“It’s crazy exciting. I can’t even explain this. It’s the best feeling ever,” Evan said shortly after he was announced the event’s winner. “It’s my first year in the senior division. I never would have expected it.”
For Jacob, finishing second in the supreme showmanship contest was plenty to feel happy about.
“It’s a great accomplishment. Ever since I’ve been in 4-H, I’ve been watching this show and wanting to win it myself. And we can enjoy it with everyone,” he said.
The competition was friendly at the 4-H Show Arena Thursday night. The participants, including Cole Allen, Joshua Cochard, Skylar Knapp, Tress Janes, Madison Bever and Juliann Apple, all worked together and helped one another out when the going got tough.
“Every single person out there was absolutely terrific. We’re all very close. It was a crapshoot to see who won,” Evan said.
“We all got along,” he said. “Before this, we all helped each other with the different species. It was all a lot of fun.”
Their camaraderie was something the judges also picked up on during the competition, and all judges were impressed by the strong performances Thursday night.
“I give them a lot of credit because they don’t know the animals, the animals are hot and tired and probably ready to leave. They all did a really good job,” judge Beth Patton-Korniak said.
The supreme showmanship contest is often seen as the pinnacle of the 4-H competitions, since it requires 4-H’ers who have performed well with at least one type of animal to manage four different types in one event. First up was swine, followed by dairy cows, sheep and finally beef cows.
For Jacob, wrangling the less-than-cooperative sheep was the hardest part.
“It’s got to be the sheep,” he said. “I’ve never been a huge sheep person. They’re just hard to hold on to.”
Evan used his sheep experience as an advantage at the event.
“We raise sheep at my farm,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been doing our whole lives. Dairy, by far, is the hardest. It’s so slow, and you have to do it backwards – it’s hard.”
Jacob credited his reserve grand championship to staying calm, getting the animal’s feet set right away and just having fun.
“What I was looking for was who could stay calm, who could get set up consistently,” Patton-Korniak said.
Overall, the judges said they were impressed with the performances from each 4-H’er at the supreme showmanship contest.
“I thought they all rose to the occasion tonight,” judge Bailey Farrer said.