The Texas A&M University poultry judging team brought home the reserve champion team title from the 74th annual Louisiana State University Collegiate National Poultry Contest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, recently.
But Gracie Krejci ’23 came away from the judging experience with more than just a plaque or trophy – she came away with lessons learned, experience, confidence and fellowship.
The team, led by Brett Meisinger, lecturer, Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Poultry Science, was first in the Market Product Division and third in the Breed Selection Division with four perfect scores on the individual breeder selection.
“During all four years of high school, I judged poultry through FFA. I loved every second of it and enjoyed the competitiveness, learning and the relationships it brought me,” Krejci said. “When I got to college, I knew I wanted to continue my judging career on the collegiate team.”
With graduation coming up and veterinary school on the horizon, Krejci sat down with us to discuss and reflect on her senior judging season.
“The lessons you learn on a judging team don’t just stay in the barn but help you in other areas of your life.”
Gracie Krejci ’23
Q: What was your favorite thing about being on the team?
A: The relationships I made. Seeing the teamwork toward a common goal and bond along the way was something I valued. From our time spent at practice to the multiple stops on the trip to LSU spent looking for alligators, I enjoyed every second with my team.
As a senior, I am a bit older than the other girls, but they welcomed me with open arms and gave me the nickname, ‘Memaw,’ which made me laugh the whole trip. I am so grateful I got to judge alongside these girls, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for them.
Q: What was the highlight of being a part of the judging team this season?
A: To me, the highlight was finally being able to judge. I tried out and made the team my freshman year, but right after they announced the team, it was also announced that we would not return to school because of COVID-19. The contest was canceled during my freshman and sophomore years and things didn’t work out with judging my junior year. Not being able to judge made me want it even more, and that determination pushed me to work extra hard this semester. Having to wait so long made judging this semester even more meaningful and allowed me to appreciate it in a deeper way than I would have before.
Q: What was it like being on a judging team while also being a full-time student?
A: Balancing classes and judging was sometimes difficult, but our coach worked with us and was flexible with our schedules, allowing me to focus on both judging and school.
Planning my week out beforehand allowed me to get all my schoolwork done even while spending multiple hours a week at practice. Talking to my professors early on helped us work through what I would miss, which let me get my work done ahead of time so I could focus on judging and having fun while I was gone. Judging is time-consuming, but with enough preparation and balance, it was easy and worth it to work it into my schedule.
Q: What have you gained from being on the team aside from bettering your judging skills?
A: As I mentioned before, it took a long time for me to be able to judge. Having to come back to judging after three years made me nervous since I had not had experience with it in so long. To overcome this, I challenged myself to not be afraid to mess up or ask questions. There were many practices where I would get an answer wrong or completely misplace a class, but the people around me were there to help me learn. Instead of being embarrassed to mess up, I learned to give my answers with pride, laugh it off if they were wrong and learn from my mistakes. Failure does not scare me much anymore, and I have poultry judging to thank.
Q: What are your plans after you graduate?
A: I will graduate this May and will start veterinary school at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in the fall. Being on the judging team gave me hands-on poultry experience that increased my knowledge of handling birds and helped my vet school application stand out. Additionally, the relationships I made through judging resulted in a mentor who was willing to write me a letter of recommendation for vet school. I have always wanted to treat backyard poultry as a veterinarian, and I know the experiences and people I have met through judging will help me achieve that goal.
Q: What advice would you give future students interested in joining a collegiate judging team?
A: I would tell them to go for it! The lessons I learned and the relationships I made from judging are immeasurable. Judging teams are filled with people who want you to succeed, and the welcoming environment pushes you to learn and grow in amazing ways. The lessons you learn on a judging team don’t just stay in the barn but help you in other areas of your life. The time I spent poultry judging is something I will value forever.