Penn State turf students place high in national competition

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Three teams of Penn State students recently competed in the Sports Turf Managers Student Challenge, and two earned Top-3 finishes in their divisions.

More than 40 collegiate teams competed in the event, held in January during the Sports Turf Managers Association conference in Daytona Beach, Fla. Tom Serensits, manager of the Center for Sports Surface Research at Penn State, helped prepare the students to compete.

Team members represented both programs offered by Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences for students pursuing a career in the turfgrass industry.

The Two-Year Division team was made up of students from Penn State's two-year golf course turfgrass management program. The other two teams were comprised of students from the four-year turfgrass science major.

The Two-Year Division team placed third, and one of the Four-Year Division teams placed second.

"I am always happy to see our students do well," said Andrew McNitt, professor of soil science, who coordinates the turfgrass science major and directs the Center for Sports Surface Research at Penn State. "They work hard to prepare for the competition and take it very seriously. Tom Serensits sets the tone and does a great job helping the students prepare."

The second place Four-Year Division team included senior turfgrass science majors Will McNeal, of York; Matt Harvey, of Reynoldsville; Tyler Patton, of Ellwood City; and Stephen King Jr., of St. Leonard, Md.

"The competition is basically like a test," said McNeal. "You and your team get a packet of papers including multiple choice, matching and short-answer questions, and you have three and a half hours to finish it all."

The questions on the test cover topics such as math, turf nutrition, soil properties, plant morphology and biology, and pest management.

McNeal explained that there is also a live identification portion requiring teams to identify grasses, diseases, mower and sprayer parts, insects and other related objects.

"I hope the fact that we did so well will encourage other turf majors to join the team and participate in future competitions," McNeal said.

The Two-Year Division team included Ben Burrill, of Otley, England; Keenan Lilyquist, of Shoreview, Minn.; and Aaron Archambault, of Exeter, N.H.; who are all pursuing the two-year certificate.

Ben Gotwalt, of Elizabethtown; Mike Scheyd, of Kensington, Conn.; Todd Pully, of Lewistown; and Jacob Leadbetter, of Corsica; also competed in the Four-Year Division.

Last Updated February 25, 2013