'Newbie' Takes Top Honors in All-American Showing, Fitting

9/29/2012 7:00 AM
By Jessica Rose Spangler Reporter

HARRISBURG, Pa. — “I was shocked to get where I was. I’ve always clipped my own, but I’ve never been judged before,” Jade Jensen said as her whirlwind day started to sink in.

After more than seven hours of competition, Jensen, 19, from Conway, Mo., topped 135 other senior showmen and was named the 2012 All-American Dairy Show Youth Showmanship Contest Champion Senior.

Despite what one might think, the road Jensen traveled to get to this point hasn’t been all that long, but it has brought her to the national stage and earned her the respect of others in the industry.

“Six years ago my family switched from beef to dairy,” Jensen said. “We have about half Guernseys and half whatever.

“My first county fair was when I was 14. I got in with people who needed help showing (dairy) and I went to Madison (for World Dairy Expo) that first year,” she said.

“I bought my first heifer in 2007 at the National Guernsey Convention and I’ve shown at all the national shows since then,” Jensen said. “This is my passion. Dairy just comes natural to me.”

Despite living in Missouri, Jensen has been at Harrisburg’s All-American for the past four years. She showed her Guernsey in 2009 and 2010, attended as the National Guernsey Princess in 2011 and worked for another Guernsey breeder, Warwick-Manor, at the 2012 show.

Even though Jensen didn’t bring any of her own animals to the show this year, she was still eligible to compete in the showing and fitting contest. But her first challenge of the day was to find an animal to lead.

Her first option was to take one of the Warwick-Manor Guernseys, “but none of these cows are perfect,” she said.

So, through the friendly dairy grapevine, Jensen found a Jersey that was “perfect out here (in the barn), but I drug her across the shavings.”

Once the showmanship contest started at 10 a.m. Sept 16, Jensen had to survive multiple rounds to land herself a place in the final showing round. Judge Van Proctor of Vale, N.C., had to sort through 19 seniors to find the top 10 who would move on to the fitting round.

Before Jensen was assured her berth in the fit-out, she and five other seniors switched animals. Proctor noted that he needed to see if people he thought were good showman were still good on someone else’s animal.

Jensen went from the halter of her borrowed Jersey calf to that of a tall yearling Holstein. Proctor was obviously impressed — she got the nod to move on to the fit-out.

“This was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done cow showwise. Any one of those kids can come work for me, Proctor said. “I asked each of them (in the final showing round) what was wrong with their animal, what they would change about her and what they would breed her to. That had a lot of bearing on what made the top 10.”

At 3:30 p.m., Jensen and the other top nine seniors gathered in the Small Arena of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex to begin their fitting challenge. They each were assigned a heifer calf and were given one hour and 10 minutes to fit the heifer — topline and all.

“They all handle clippers really well,” judge Teri Martin of Gouverneur, N.Y., said after about 20 minutes of fitting. “I asked each one what they hated clipping the most — legs, heads, elbows. I would’ve never thought about elbows, but that’s my most hated part too.”

About halfway through the fitting contest, Proctor joined Martin in the ring. Even though the top 10 finalists did not actually receive a placing in showmanship, Proctor had an idea of their ranking. The same was true for fitting. As the two judges watched the contestants fit their animals, they collaborated on a final ranking.

Just before 5 p.m., time was called and all contestants had to put their fitting materials down. They may have been discussing their ideas for the better part of an hour, but it took 20 more minutes for the two judges to come to a conclusion.

“This is the best group of kids I’ve ever worked with. I wish I was as good at this age as they are,” Proctor said.

“It’s nice to have a group of kids that all know what clippers are. I give you all a lot of credit. There’s not one of you that didn’t finish. I’d hire any one of you to fit for me,” Martin said.

After seven hours of hard work, sweat, cow slobber and cow hair later, Jensen bested the competition.

The other finalists were 10th, Justin Kennedy, 17, New Castle, Pa.; ninth, Laura Emerson, 21, Middletown, Del.; eighth, Kaitlyn Corbatt, 19, Williamsport, Md.; seventh, Ashlee Deitz, 21, Southington, Ohio; sixth, Spencer Weimer, 21, Emlenton, Pa.; fifth, Madison Fisher, 21, Claysburg, Pa.; fourth, Lauren Nell, 19, Gettysburg, Pa.; third, Corbin Wood, 21, Littlestown, Pa.; and second, Elijah Dobay, 17, Farmdale, Ohio.

Overall, the annual showmanship contest was a record setter. Ten states were represented from New England to the Mid-Atlantic to Missouri and California. There were 439 contestants, nearly100 more than last year.

Robbie Shaw of Maryland judged the intermediate division of showmanship. First place honors went to Kyle Barton, 14, Ancramdale, N.Y.; second to Jacob Kline, 14, Myerstown, Pa.; third to Daniel Kitchen, 14, Danville, Pa.; fourth to Kayla Umbel, 13, Emmitsburg, Md.; fifth to Hannah Rhoades, 15, Greenville, Ohio; sixth to Maddy Manges, 13, Fairhope, Pa.; seventh to Lane Kummer, 12, Evans City, Pa.; eighth to Kayla Windecker, 15, Frankfort, N.Y.; ninth to Lexi Winkler, 14, Woodbine, Md.; and 10th to Kelsey Heiney, 13, Strasburg, Pa.

Carrie Sears of Massachusetts placed the participants of the junior division of showmanship. Mason Mazzaro, 11, Williamsfield, Ohio, placed first; Trinity Miller, 10, Westminster, Md., second; Bradley Richman, 10, Mannington, N.J., third; Anna Klink, 9, Linesville, Pa., fourth; Dayton Pitzer, 9, New Alexandria, Pa., fifth; Jailynn Gilbert, 10, Meadville, Pa., sixth; Brooke Cornell, 11, Berlin, Pa., seventh; Mikayla Davis, 11, Leesport, Pa., eighth; Tucker True, 11, Perry, N.Y., ninth; and Kiley Cassell, 11, Duncannon, Pa., 10th.

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