Penn State soil-judging team qualifies for national competition

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A student soil-judging team representing Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences finished second in the Northeast Regional contest Oct. 13-16 in Wooster, Ohio, qualifying for the national championship event next spring in Kansas.

In the regional competition, hosted by Ohio State University, the Penn State team finished behind squads from the University of Maryland but ahead of teams from Ohio State and Delaware Valley College. Other competing schools at the contest, held at Malabar Farm, were Bloomsburg University, the University of Rhode Island, Richard Stockton College and Wilmington College.

The contest is an annual event, which allows students to practice describing and interpreting soils and landscapes against schools from around the country. The top schools from each region compete at a fall regional competition in order to qualify for the national event held the following spring. This year, students practiced describing soils formed in a variety of glacial parent materials.

Penn State's team consisted of environmental resource management majors Matt Dilger, of Richboro; Jennifer Kellog, of Erie; Nicole Kubiczki, of Pittsburgh; Lalita Limpichart, of Bloomfield, New Jersey; Prince Oliver, of Virginia Beach, Virginia; Phil Schiebel, of Orefield; Aryn Santrock, of Chambersburg; Katie Speicher, of Myerstown; Bill Wall, of Lebanon; and Mark Younkins, of Boalsburg. Team members also included Thom Heron, a biorenewable systems major from Kunkletown, and Matt Rider, an agricultural and extension education major from Boalsburg.

Sixty-two students competed in the contest's individual component. Penn State's Speicher finished 10th, Dilger was 19th and Kubiczki was 20th.

"We had a good mix of some returners with experience and a lot of new people to help build for the future," said team coach Patrick Drohan, associate professor of pedology. "We had only two days of practice this year, which made it harder for the new people to pick up on the glacial soil concepts. Regardless, we did well."

Drohan pointed out that the students on the soil-judging team are excited to be going to Manhattan, Kansas, in late April to compete in the national event, hosted by Kansas State University. Noting that traveling to contests is a great, but costly, experience for the students, he urged anyone interested in supporting the team to contribute to the squad's travel fund here.

Penn State teams have participated in national and regional soil-judging competitions since the 1950s, according to Drohan. "The contest is part of the Soil Science Society of America's commitment to soils education and provides participating students with an opportunity to see new soils and to test their skills against peers from across the region."

More information about the team and the 60-plus years of student soil-judging history at Penn State is available online here and here.

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Last Updated October 27, 2015