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Collegiate landscaping competitors give 100% on ‘game day’
David Rountree | March 18, 2016
A volunteer from John Deere measures a hole dug by student landscaper Tyler Stefancin of Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, in the compact excavator competition. Photo: David Rountree

A volunteer from John Deere measures a hole dug by student landscaper Tyler Stefancin of Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, in the compact excavator competition.
Photo: David Rountree

After several days of workshops, career development and networking, the 700- students participating in this year’s National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC) put their game faces on Friday morning.

From the operation of skid steers and excavators to proper trailer loading and towing, from plant analysis to small-engine repair, the day had finally arrived to prove themselves.

For Tyler Stefancin, a senior at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, his hard work in practice appeared to be paying dividends Friday.

With his instructor, Jim Funai, along with teammates and volunteers cheering him on, Stefancin dug a whole closely matching the required specifications using a John Deere compact excavator.

Final results of the competition wouldn’t be known until later, but both Stefancin and his teacher were pleased with the results.

“He practiced hours and hours,” Funai said of his student, “almost from dawn to dusk. I couldn’t get him off of it.”

Although Cuyahoga has competed in the NCLC before – coming in sixth place overall last year – Funai said this year’s competition was the first in which the community college had qualified to participate in every event.

“That’s hard for a small school to accomplish,” he said, noting that the Cleveland college had 18 students in this year’s competition.

Irrigation teams work as quickly as possible Friday morning to complete their systems according to the required specifications. Photo: Jill Odom

Irrigation teams work as quickly as possible Friday morning to complete their systems according to the required specifications.
Photo: Jill Odom

Meanwhile, only a few yards away on the intramural sports field at Mississippi State University, teams from across the country began the irrigation competition.

Brian Brown, a staff member of the Department of Horticulture in Auburn University’s College of Agriculture, watched carefully as AU’s team worked feverishly to build an irrigation system according to the required specifications.

Brown said Auburn brought 16 students to NCLC this year.

Not far away, competitors from Hinds Community College in Raymond, Mississippi, just west of Jackson, were busy measuring and cutting lengths of PVC pipe.

“Both of us have a big background in irrigation,” said Hinds’ Dylan Dobbs, “and I’ve been working for a landscape company the past year – and that’s my job, irrigation hardscapes, so that’s how I prepared myself.”

His teammate, Marcus Bold, made it clear that Hinds Community College came to win.

“I’ve been working for irrigation for the past 10 years,” Bold said, “so we went over a good game plan and got plenty of rest, and we’re ready to win.”

NCLC is coordinated each year by the National Association of Landscape Professionals, with support from a number of companies in the green industry.

EDITOR’S NOTE: TLC Associate Editor Jill Odom contributed to this report.

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