Horticulture Students Thrive in National Event

Will Rogers in the backhoe operation competition

Will Rogers the humorist was quite the celebrated funnyman in his era.

But Will Rogers the Eastern Kentucky University student is all business when it comes to his turfgrass management major and landscape competitions.

In the 41st annual National Collegiate Landscape Competition, held recently in Provo, Utah, Rogers ranked fifth overall among 672 horticulture students from across the nation. The senior from Corbin placed first in the Compact Excavator Operation category and fourth in the Tractor Loader Backhoe Competition.

team photoFive other EKU horticulture students participated in the three-day event, and all placed in various categories, helping EKU rank 32nd out of 60 teams, “a great feat when most of the other schools bring teams of 20 to 30 students,” said Carla Hagan, a professor in EKU’s Department of Agriculture.

The high finish earned Rogers “SuperStar” status.

“It’s a huge deal to have a first in any competition,” said Hagan. “Will set this as a personal goal and has worked three years to achieve it.”

Also for EKU:

  • Brian Gesner, senior fruit and vegetable production student, placed 10th in the Construction Cost Estimating competition and, along with his team competitions, ranked 30th overall.
  • Austin Martin, junior landscape and nursery student, placed 29th in Skid Steer Operation and, along with his team competitions, ranked 50th overall.
  • Molly McKinney, senior landscape and nursery student, placed 17th in Business Management out of 82 students while also managing to secure some highly desired job interviews with landscape firms.
  • Christina Newton, senior floriculture and greenhouse student,  placed 26th in both Maintenance Cost Estimating and Flower and Foliage Design while also running EKU Horticulture’s social media campaign. Coverage of the competitions was all over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (#ekuhorticulture, #NALPNCLC). 
  • Angela Gesner, senior fruit and vegetable production student, competed with Brian Gesner and Martin in what many consider the highlight competition of the event – a nearly two-hour landscape plant install competition. EKU placed 14th out of the 57 teams competing. 
  • Martin and Rogers also worked together as a team during the Truck and Trailer Operation, finishing 16th of 53 teams. It was their first time competing as a team in the event, although Rogers competed last year with Mike Cain.
  • Rogers and Brian Gesner competed together in Wood Construction, placing 9th of 30 teams, and in Irrigation Assembly, placing 19th of 42 teams.

“EKU horticulture students were visited by executives from Stihl, Gravely, and John Deere,” Hagan noted. “The skills exhibited in this competition will no doubt help to secure long and satisfying careers for those that participated.”

In addition to Hagan, others participating from EKU included John Duvall, EKU horticulture technician, and Cody Domenghini, horticulture professor and Horticulture Club adviser.

For more information about EKU's horticulture program, visit www.agriculture.eku.edu.

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Published on March 21, 2017