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New Mexico 4-H teams gear up for Western National Roundup

What do consumer decision making, horse bowl and parliamentary procedure all have in common? (This may sound like a question with a punch-line follow-up, but it is actually not a joke.)

The serious answer to the serious question is that they are among the event categories in which New Mexico 4-H teams will be competing at the 2011 4-H Western National Roundup in Denver Jan. 6-9. This yearly event, which coincides with the National Western Stock Show, will yield regional or national champions in the above three categories and a dozen more.

A number of teams and individuals that were winners at the New Mexico State 4-H Conference last July have qualified to represent New Mexico in the Denver roundup. At last count, nine teams and three individuals from 10 New Mexico counties will be heading to Denver for four days of competitions, workshops, camaraderie and sightseeing. Stressing the qualities of leadership, enthusiasm, achievement and determination, the theme of this year's conference is "Take the LEAD."

New Mexico State University is one of the sponsoring universities of the roundup.

Two of New Mexico's Denver-bound teams are from Grant County: consumer decision making and parliamentary procedure. (Grant County actually had five first-place teams at the state event, but only two were relevant to this year's Denver competition.)

Judy O'Loughlin is the NMSU home economist at the Extension office in Silver City and coach of the consumer decision making team. According to O'Loughlin, Grant County has a tradition of strength in this area, which she attributes to the previous home economist, Margaret Dines.

"Three of the current team members, Mariah Runnels, Celina Sircy and Kaitlyn Riddle, started very early in district contests and have won at the state level," O'Loughlin said.

Grant County has depth as well as strength in the parliamentary procedure category - in addition to the first-place team, another Grant County team placed third this year at the state conference.

O'Loughlin applauds the enthusiasm of the teams' coach: "Silver High School's teacher Shane Wetzel is a past Grant County 4-H member," she said, adding that he is also the Future Farmers of America teacher at the school. "Mr. Wetzel has accompanied these teams to both state and national competitions and continues to support the 4-H program. He sees 4-H as a beginning for his FFA program and a win/win for the kids who participate in both opportunities."

"All members of both teams just get it!" O'Loughlin added. "I am very proud of all of them. They are a pleasure to coach and a great group of kids to be around."

Valencia County also has two teams heading to Denver: horse bowl and "Home Ec Skillathon." Anne-Marie Wilson, coach of the latter and home economics Extension agent for Valencia County, will be accompanying the teams to the roundup.

"We're very excited for the kids and they are thrilled to have this opportunity," she said. Two of the four members of the Skillathon team, Shelby Herrera and Lacey Sanchez, placed first and fifth in the state individual Skillathon competition, so she feels that team will have a strong showing in Denver.

Geographically, getting to Denver from New Mexico locations is pretty straightforward, but paying for eight-to-10 team members plus coaches and additional adult supporters is no small task for either of these 4-H clubs. The clubs in both counties organized raffles during the fall to raise money. Other fundraising initiatives have included a benefit roping competition and a dance (Valencia County) and a holiday gift sale featuring New Mexico hot cocoa mix and posole mix (Grant County).

A slightly altered horse judging team from Union County will be representing New Mexico in their event at the roundup's "Horse Classic." According to Owida Franz, Union County's Extension agent for home economics and 4-H, winning team member Hannah Walker started classes at NMSU in the fall and opted out of the event. This allowed Tanner Monroe, who placed ninth in the state individual category, to join the Denver-bound team. Monroe had not competed in judging prior to this year.

Win or lose, New Mexico's 4-H'ers are bound to have an exciting time at the Denver roundup. Valencia County's Wilson jokingly expressed trepidation at the possibility that her teams might win: "I foolishly told them if they won, I'd buy them ice cream every night we are in Denver," she said. "Now I have mixed feelings."

For more about NMSU's 4-H youth development program, visit the website at http://aces.nmsu.edu/4h/

For details about the Western National Roundup, visit http://www.westernnationalroundup.org/