GREEN GRASS AND HIGH MARKS: Kirkwood students place well in national turfgrass competition

February 3, 2010

A group of Kirkwood Community College Ag Science students made a good “first impression” during a recent national competition. The students in Kirkwood’s Golf Course and Athletic Turfgrass Management competed in the National STMA Challenge in Orlando, Fla. The mid-January events gave students in both two- and four-year college programs a chance to prove their knowledge and skills in a variety of competitive events.

A group of six students and Ag Science Instructor Troy McQuillen competed in the competition at the Sports Turf Management Association Conference in Orlando. This was the inaugural year for Kirkwood’s involvement in the competition.

A total of 125 students from around the nation participated in the event, with six students and McQuillen representing Kirkwood. McQuillen called the students’ work “terrific, especially for their first year” in the contests.

“We had had two teams out of 36 competing in the competition. We were pretty proud of their performance, plus it gave the students a bigger view of the industry and their job prospects,” McQuillen said.

The teams were divided between two-year degree and four-year degrees. The Iowa competitors were divided into three-man teams: Kirkwood Team 205 included Michael Burkle of Monona; Brandon Cooper, Tama; and Brandon Vogt, Marion. Team 204 was made up of Paul Swafford, Fairfield; Tyler Janssen, Ackley; and Adrain Rubey of Danville.

Team 205 placed third out of 15 two-year teams and Team 204 placed eighth. The students competed at the Disney Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando. Each student had two and a half hours to complete a 100-question, multiple-choice test, then conduct 40 live-sample identifications of grasses, weeds, diseases, and insects. Finally, students had a write an essay on a turf-related topic.

“It is notable that first place honors went to Penn State University’s diploma program, second place was Virginia Tech University’s diploma program, and third place was our own Kirkwood Community College Team 205. Another truly successful thing about the event is that we placed first against all other community colleges,” McQuillen observed.

In order to attend the competition, the Kirkwood students conducted fund-raisers over the last year to pay for travel expenses.