The NACTA Judging Conference was held in North Platte, Nebraska, this year and provided undergraduate students from across the country with judging opportunities in a wide array of fields. The NACTA (North America Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture) Judging Conference is hosted each spring by a member school. The goal of the conference is to provide an important component in preparing students for a career in an agriculture-related field by enhancing their decision-making ability, prioritization skills, communication skills, and technical abilities within a student’s chosen field.


Back row: Dr. Jennifer Earing (coach), Mr. Dave Malone (coach), Josh Hardman, Joe Mohr, Zak Nixon, Joseph Heier, Keion Mackey, Austin Nakaerts, Blake Dean, Kyle Voights, Jasmine Mehalic, Joel Litwiller, Lauren Neuleib, Reuben Hodel, Abby Barkley, Joey Pakula, Madison Thomas, Nick Becker, Mrs. Cori Malone (coach), Dr. Nicholas Heller (coach)

Front row: Lauren Russel, Rachel Dickson, Shelby Stoner, Abby Hoerbert, Halle Shearer, Mason Young, Macy Wellhausen, Shelbie Kile

Not pictured: Sara Bohlen, Olivia Hagie, Dr. Drew Lugar (coach), Dr. Aslihan Spaulding (coach), Dr. Iuliia Tetteh (coach)

The Illinois State University Department of Agriculture took 26 students to the event this year. While students can participate as individuals, a complete team of ISU students participated in all 13 contests that were a part of the conference. The teams and team members are listed below, along with awards won. Because so many teams did so well, Illinois State University won the Sweepstakes Grand Champion award!

“Even before the awards banquet, we would have considered the competition an overwhelming success,” said Coach Heller. “There is no replacing this experience in terms of educational value, seeing agriculture beyond central Illinois, and preparation for the ag industry for our students.” Lauren Neuleib echoed this sentiment, “NACTA was an experience that we will never forget!”

This is Dr. Jennifer Earing’s second year serving as one of the faculty coaches for the ISU NACTA teams. “Our students are in some pretty deep water at this competition. Four-year universities from across the country come to participate, including several land grant institutions with strong agriculture programs. The fact that our students did so well makes us pretty proud! I’ll also say that, while it’s great to see them perform so well academically, the best part as a faculty coach is watching them come together and support each other.”

ISU students and coaches display their many individuals and team recognitions, including the Sweepstakes Champion trophy and banner.

During the three days of competition, more than 500 students plus coaches and guests represented 42 colleges in contests of ag business, mechanics, crops, livestock, dairy, knowledge bowl, precision ag, horticulture, soils, and equine management. “NACTA was a great opportunity to showcase our skills and knowledge gained at Illinois State while in a fun atmosphere surrounded by like-minded people,” said Macy Wellhausen who competed in three ag business competitions. All three of those teams placed in the top 3.

The excitement at ISU about bringing home the Sweepstakes Champion trophy is still abuzz and has the students and coaches looking to keep the traveling hardware coming back to Normal again next year. While the location for the 2023 NACTA Judging Conference has not yet been finalized, plans for preparing teams for next year’s Conference have already started. Some of the students that competed in this year’s contests will be graduating; however, several others will be returning to campus in the fall and are looking forward to the long hours of preparation and the comradery that comes with working hard together.

Ag Business – 2nd Place Team

Madison Thomas, Reuben Hodel, Macy Wellhausen, Halle Shearer, Sara Bohlen

Individual Champion Runner-Up: Macy Wellhausen

5th Place Individual Overall: Reuben Hodel

Ag Computers – 3rd Place Team

Madison Thomas, Blake Dean, Macy Wellhausen, Halle Shearer

Ag Sales and Communication – 1st Place Team

Madison Thomas, Reuben Hodel, Macy Wellhausen, Halle Shearer

3rd Place Individual Overall: Halle Shearer

4th Place Individual Overall: Reuben Hodel

Knowledge Bowl

Keion Mackey, Rachel Dickson, Kyle Voights, Shelbie Kile, Jasmine Mehalic

Ag Mechanics – 1st Place Team

Reuben Hodel, Kyle Voights, Austin Nakaerts, Josh Hardman

Individual Champion Runner-Up: Reuben Hodel

3rd Place Individual Overall: Austin Nakaerts

5th Place Individual Overall: Kyle Voights

Crops Judging

Shelby Stoner, Blake Dean, Josh Hardman, Shelbie Kile, Mason Young

Dairy Judging – 3rd Place Team

Joe Mohr, Joey Pakula, Joel Litwiller, Nick Becker, Olivia Hagie

4th Place Individual Overall: Nick Becker

5th Place Individual Overall: Joe Mohr

Equine Management – 2nd Place Team

Abby Barkley, Abbigail Hoerbert, Lauren Neuleib, Lauren Russell, Jasmine Mehalic

Confirmation Evaluation Overall Winner: Lauren Neuleib

Individual Champion: Lauren Neuleib

Horticulture – 2nd Place Team

Zak Nixon, Keion Mackey, Joseph Heier, Austin Nakaerts

Horticultural Knowledge Overall Winner: Keion Mackey

Horticultural Identification Overall Winner: Zak Nixon

Problem Solving Overall Winner: Joseph Heier

Individual Champion: Zak Nixon

4th Place Individual Overall: Keion Mackey

5th Place Individual Overall: Joseph Heier

Livestock Judging – 3rd Place Team

Joe Mohr, Joey Pakula, Joel Litwiller, Nick Becker, Rachel Dickson

5th Place Individual Overall: Rachel Dickson

Livestock Management

Abbigail Hoerbert, Jasmine Mehalic, Lauren Russell, Joel Litwiller, Rachel Dickson

Precision Agriculture

Blake Dean, Austin Nakaerts, Kyle Voights, Josh Hardman, Mason Young

Soils Judging

Shelby Stoner, Shelbie Kile, Joseph Heier, Zak Nixon, Mason Young

List of all participating schools at NACTA 2022

2-Year Institutions: Eastern Oklahoma State College, North Carolina State – Ag Institute, Modesto Junior College, Hutchinson CC, Vincennes University, Joliet Junior College, Southeast Community College, Casper College, North Dakota St College of Science, Northeast Community College, Murray State College, Black Hawk College, College of Southern Idaho, Northeastern Junior College, Crowder Community College, Illinois Valley Community College, Laramie Community College.

4-Year Institutions: Texas A&M Kingsville, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Ball State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Purdue University, University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Southern Illinois University, Oklahoma State University, Murray State University, South Dakota State University, Fort Hays State University, University of Missouri, Illinois State  University, Huntington University, University of Nebraska, Oklahoma Panhandle State University, West Texas A&M  University, University of Minnesota-Crookston, Kansas State  University, University of Minnesota St Paul, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, University of Illinois, Northwestern Oklahoma State  University, Western Illinois University.