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Crockett forestry team wins state, earns place in nationals

Since 1994, the self proclaimed worldwide leader in sports, ESPN has televised the Scripps National Spelling Bee, attracting millions of viewers after the network opted to slot the competition in primetime.
This past year, the event finale attracted more viewers than Game Four of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup.
Skeptics would argue, however, that a spelling bee or other similar more contemporary event falls outside of what is historically considered “mainstream.” They may even question whether such competitions can even be considered sports in the first place.
A small group of David Crockett High School students are dispelling these skeptics, one tree measurement or compass reading at a time.
The Crockett forestry team, fresh off their second state championship, embody the very essence of sport and competition.
Although they are not measured on how fast they run, how hard they throw a ball, or how well they hit an approach shot, they still put hours a week into practice.
They also work among one another as a team and push to strengthen their mental and physical capabilities in their sport.
Crockett teacher and forestry team coach Ryan Arnett will be the first to acknowledge the tremendous preparation and grueling aspects present before and during the competition.
“An incredible amount of hard work, energy, and dedication went into this contest from the members,” Arnett said. “They practiced and studied much of the spring semester and then every day since the end of school. They had lots of fun preparing and traveling to the contest, but when it was time to focus, they focused.”
The Crockett forestry team is part of the national FFA organization, formerly known as the Future Farmers of America.
The competitive aspect accompanies teams of four as they compete and are scored in several events. These include the proper techniques and use of a chainsaw and other forestry equipment, the identification and measurement of a tree’s height and diameter, the identification of insects and disease in trees as well as the use of a compass and topographic map.
The national FFA offers college scholarships and prepares students for a career in agriculture or forestry.
Kareena Jones, a member of the championship forestry team at Crockett, sees the benefits of the national FFA first hand.
“I originally became involved in the FFA because I love being outdoors. I enjoy hiking and nature and this provided me an opportunity to connect with that,” Jones said. “The FFA teaches us more than just forestry — it builds teamwork and leadership. The organization and competition are beneficial in many ways.”
Eight Crockett students participated in the district tournament n May to gain entry into the state competition that followed in June.
The four-person team from Crockett was made up of Rebekah Wright, a rising senior; Jones, a rising junior; Bryce Bateman, a rising junior; and Brittany Sparks, a recent graduate.
The state tournament was held Camp Clements in Doyle.
The competitors of the demanding two-day event were tested physically and mentally both indoors and out.
When the final point tally was determined, Crockett stood ahead of the rest, finishing with an overall score of 1920.
The final total gave the Pioneers their second state championship in school history and also set the mark as the second highest score in the 21-year history of the event.
“It is a rare privilege to win a state contest,” Arnett said. “In particular, the State FFA Forestry CDE is very competitive; if anyone wins a state FFA contest, then they have definitely earned it. With over 13,000 FFA members in Tennessee, there are plenty of people who go all out to win.”
The championship also qualified them for the national event held in Indianapolis on Oct. 18-22. There, they will represent the state in a competition against 49 other states.
Over 500,000 people are part of the national FFA organization and although the four Crockett students have already defied the odds just getting to the final leg of the event, as with all true competitors among any sport, their goal is to win a national championship.
“It felt great to win state. We finally got to see all of our hard work pay off,” Jones said. “Nationals will be even tougher, the competition will be greater, but with practice and dedication, I think we can pull it off.”