FLEMINGTON, NJ – Even the challenges of virtual competition – like judging a horse without seeing it in person – did not impede the performance of Hunterdon County Polytech Career and Technical High School students at the recent FFA Veterinary Science Career Development Event (CDE). The school’s Animal Science Program has participated in the event for five consecutive years, celebrating multiple winning teams, and this year was no different. Two Polytech teams finished with first place wins in the Horse Evaluation and Veterinary Science events.
Taking first place in the Horse Evaluation event was the team of Lauren Jarowicz, Emma Bacon, Victorialynn Byk and Zia Tomasi. Jarowicz took first place and Bacon took third place in the individual competitions.
The Polytech team finishing in first place for the Veterinary Science event comprised Ashlee Gibbons, Mollie Zimm, Jordan Russell and Jenny Ball.
The CDE, usually held at Rutgers University, brings together teams representing FFA chapters from throughout New Jersey to complete a series of tests designed to assess their technical knowledge and practical skills in the area of veterinary science.
Each competitive event has multiple components, according to Taryn Romanczak, instructor of Animal Science and advisor to Hunterdon County Polytech’s FFA chapter. She said this year both competitions were held virtually, which led to some modifications. The students competing in Horse Evaluation completed a written test and judged four classes of horses. They presented oral reasons on two classes of judging and so had to record their own videos for those.
Romanczak explained that the Veterinary Science event typically includes a written test, a math test, identification and a practical “hands-on” section. She said this year’s hands-on test was handled with test questions because the hands-onportion was “just not possible.”
Romanczak noted that all involved rose to the challenge of working virtually. “It was a learning curve for everyone, but the state offered awesome support for the students and very detailed directions.”
According to Romanczak, students who represent Polytech in the FFA Veterinary Science CDE prepare throughout the year. They receive hands-on skills and information through their Animal Science coursework that proves valuable in competition. In past years, Romanczak also has helped students focus on the skills and knowledge they would need for their specific event with in-class simulations. However, the transition to remote learning in the wake of the pandemic made this year different.
“Because of the school closing, we were not able to hold in-class practices for either CDE,” noted Romanczak, “but the students continued to study and prepare on their own. I am so proud of all of them!”
Both winning teams will head to the National FFA CDE competition in the fall. Hunterdon County Polytech previously sent a team to nationals for the Veterinary Science event, but this will be the first year the school is represented with a Horse Evaluation team.
Students in Polytech’s Animal Science Program automatically are enrolled in Polytech’s Chapter of FFA. Romanczak noted that the National FFA organization is the largest student organization in the country. She said the organization promotes leadership, personal growth and career success through the activities and opportunities it presents to students. “Polytech students can take their involvement as far as they want. The possibilities are endless.”