June 21 2019 02:45 AM

For juniors, it’s once again time to gear up for this year’s national breed conventions.

Growing up as a breed convention attendee and competitor, I knew that the end of the school year didn’t mean the beginning of vacation, hanging by the pool, or even simply relaxing in front of the television. For me, the beginning of summer was a sign of breed conventions to come.

With that in mind, Riley Zettle, former Illinois Junior Holstein member and captain of the 2017 winning senior dairy bowl team at National Holstein Convention, and Caroline Arrowsmith, current Pennsylvania youth and a national Jersey Dairy Jeopardy winner, were eager to offer advice for this year’s competitors.

What study methods help you learn best?

Riley: “Break information down into 20 to 30 minutes of studying each night. I asked anybody and everybody to read dairy bowl questions to me. Learn from your teammates! When they answer a question during practice that you don’t know, write the question down and learn from it.”

Caroline: “I love using a flashcard app to study. I go through and remove all of the ones that I know. I then get someone else to ask me the other ones until I learn them. I find it helps to have somebody ask me those questions out loud because it’s more realistic to the contest.”

What do you do on contest morning?

Riley: “Nationals was when I was most stressed. I always put a huge amount of pressure on myself even though I was there for fun, because winning adds to the fun.” When discussing what to do on contest morning, Riley mentioned listening to music to keep him in the zone and his nerves down.

Caroline: “I’m always nervous on contest morning, but I try to eat a small breakfast so my stomach doesn’t distract me while competing. After that, I may study a little, but I feel that for the most part I already know what I know. I might then distract myself by talking or playing games so I stay calm.”

What advice would you give to those competing?

Riley: “Be yourself. Be loud. Be silly. Have fun! Meet people from different states! You never know what kind of friendships will last long after you are done competing at conventions. We might be competing against each other for one or two days at convention, but we are there for one reason: we love the dairy industry. Befriend someone. Learn what it’s like to grow up in another state. Just soak up every minute of convention because you only get so many.”

Caroline: “Stay confident even when you get a question wrong. The next question is a fresh start. Don’t forget to communicate with your team! They’re there to help and you should all work together and be friendly. Remember that you’ve studied and done your best. No one can take that way from you.”

The awesome part of dairy bowl is that no matter whether you win or lose, your knowledge of and network within the greater dairy industry has deepened. Whether this year’s contest at your breed convention ends up being your dream come true or maybe not what you hoped, be proud of yourself and those surrounding you.

Sarah Thomas

Sarah Thomas grew up in Pittsboro, N.C., showing and raising dairy heifers. Thomas attends Virginia Tech, majoring in dairy science with minors in agricultural economics, communication, and Spanish. On campus, she’s involved with Dairy Club, Sigma Alpha, and has been a member of the Virginia Tech dairy judging team. Thomas is the current National Junior Holstein Advisory Committee Chairperson and is the 2019 Hoard’s Dairyman summer editorial intern.