State Champs the Shelby County 4-H Forestry Team are pumped and eager to win the National 4-H Forestry Invitational, billed as the Super Bowl of 4-H Forestry. The event will be held in West Virginia, July 22-26 at Jackson's Mill.
Presenters are the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Cooperative Extension System. Extension educators, U. S. Forest Service personnel, state forestry agency foresters and volunteer leaders manage the event. Shelby County is among 17 teams representing states from around the country in competition for the national title.
The Shelby County team includes Hayden Quick, 16, and Michael Crenshaw, 18, both of Rosemark; Amber Joy Cleveland, 17, of Germantown; and Emma Osborn, 16, of Cordova, all of whom are home-schooled.
According to Crenshaw, qualifiers to compete differ by state. In Tennessee, teams must place in the top four at their regional competition, and then place first at the state competition.
In qualifying competition, Shelby County shut out eight other competing teams to claim a first-place win Aug. 27, 2011 at the Western Regional competition in Jackson, Tenn., hosted by the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture/UT Extension Service. The local team later edged out a victory over the highest-scoring Central Region team from Putnam County to win the state championship on Oct. 22, 2011 in Knoxville. The team also set a precedent for the Western Region as first-time state forestry champs, according to UT officials who can't remember a team from the West ever winning the state competition.
Competition at the national level is steep. "Alabama is known to be a very tough competitor at the Nationals," said team member Crenshaw. "They have won 17 of 32 competitions. Though Tennessee usually places well, our state has not won since 1993 — before any of us were born. It is our goal to upset the old stats, like we did at the state level, and set a new precedent."
Crenshaw's father Kenny Crenshaw.president of Herbi-Systems, Inc. of Bartlett said, "I am 100 percent behind my son and his teammates in their quest to be national champions"I believe they give new meaning to "good team player," when the stakes are this high and the competition so intense. The Shelby County team is setting a great example for the next generation of leaders, focusing attentions on our natural resources while developing both initiative and diligence."
Michael Crenshaw said, "Considering the amount of time and effort our team has put into preparation and the excellent assistance we've received from forestry professionals, I am confident that we will continue Tennessee's tradition of being a strong contender for the national title,"
He continued. "A special thanks goes out to Dr. Allan Houston, research professor of Forest and Wildlife Biology with the UT Extension; Preston Padgett, retired forester with the UT Extension; Shawn Posey, West Tennessee Regional Urban forester; Tom Walthousen, international lumber sales representative; and Dr. David Mercker, Forest Management specialist with the UT Extension who taught us everything we needed to know including how to properly evaluate a forest plot and how to identify the 81 trees on the Nationals list."
Quick said, "I feel confident that we will show the other states that Tennessee is no longer an underdog and that we are not to be overlooked."
Cleveland said, "The 2012 Tennessee 4-H motto is 'Exceeding Expectations', and that's what we plan to do."
"I am prepared for whatever happens," said Osborn. "Though it would be nice to win, I am excited, terrified, and ready to go."
Kim Brukardt is a public relations and marketing consultant.