Soil Judging Team sweeps regional competition

Friday, October 6, 2017

Shawna Richter-Ryerson | Natural Resources

University of Nebraska–Lincoln Soil Judging Team

The Soil Judging Team will head to nationals in the spring after sweeping the Region V competition Sept. 28 in Redfield, South Dakota. | Photo courtesy Rebecca Young

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Soil Judging Team swept the Region 5 competition Sept. 28 in Redfield, South Dakota, beating out seven other teams to earn first place finishes across the board.

The win puts the team in a top position for the 2018 National Soil Judging Contest set for spring in Tennessee.

Bryan Petersen, sophomore applied climate science major, earned first place in the individual competition, where he competed against 70 others, which included his own team and those from Iowa State University, Kansas State University, University of Minnesota, South Dakota State University and University of Missouri.

Samantha Teten

Samantha Teten | Photo courtesy Rebecca Young

Two others, Laura LeCuyer and Samantha Teten, placed in the top 10, earning fifth and seventh places respectively.

The team, made up of 17 students from the School of Natural Resources and the Agronomy and Horticulture Department, also earned first place in the group judging contest, and then again in the overall team placement, where only four of the 16 individual scores counted with the group score toward the win.

“I was surprised when we won,” said LeCuyer, junior environmental restoration student. “Not that I was doubting us, but it was definitely exciting.”

The teammates had three days to prepare for the competition, utilizing 12 practice pits near the competition site to become familiar with the soils and landscape of South Dakota. On competition day, they had to correctly identify, evaluate, classify and describe five soil profiles in previously unseen soil pits and also rate the area for land use.

This is the second time in the history of the trophy, started in 1983, that the Nebraska team has earned a first place overall finish. It’s the first time they’ve swept the competition.
“It’s great to watch how much the students’ progress from the first day to the last day,” said Rebecca Young, the team’s co-coach, about the win. “They are hesitant going in, but the more exposed to the soils they are, the more they start using the terminology correctly and start noticing complex ideas and get more inquisitive and more confident.”

The confidence flows over into other areas and courses, said Judith Turk, co-coach and pedologist with the Conservation and Survey Division at SNR.

And maybe, just maybe, it will propel them to another win at nationals.

Nebraska Soil Judging Team members include Sung Byung Chae, Robert Clark, Zoe De Grande, Autumn Dunn, Kolby Grint, Riley Hackbart, Zachary Kuhr, Laura LeCuyer, Nicole Musgrave, Ashley Nassar, Bryan Petersen, Adam Romans, Nicole Strand, Samantha Teten, Clare Wilton and Haley Zabel. Coaches are Judith Turk and Rebecca Young, and Assistant Coach Jake Ziggafoos, an agronomy and horticulture graduate student.


The team has undergone growth in the last few years, prompting the need to secure additional funding for participation in the regional and national contests each year.

Tax deductible donations are being accepted for the UNL Soil Judging Team Excellence Fund through the University of Nebraska Foundation, and a strong push is being made to reach the goal of $30,000 by Jan. 1. An anonymous donor will match any donations made to the fund between now and Dec. 31 for a sum of up to $5,000.

To donate, visit and search for “UNL Soil Judging Team Excellence Fund.” 

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