Pilot Point freshmen take ninth at state FFA
By Tatiana Ambrosio
Pilot Point High School has three more reasons to be proud of their students. On Saturday, three freshmen, Cara Christensen, Grayson Brown and Hannah Warren took home the prize of being ninth in the state for their leadership contest for Future Farmers of America.
The three began their journey in one of the agricultural sciences classes taught by Blake Hesteande at PPHS. Over 400 of Pilot Point’s approximate 450 high school students are enrolled in at least one of these classes and members of the FFA program.
This is quite an accomplishment that Hesteande said is attributed to a long-time commitment from the ag teachers that preceded him.
These days Blake and his wife, Sarabeth, teach alongside Stacy Grona. The three break up the extracurricular activities and contests that are offered through FFA. The school offers many agricultural science clases with a few that double as science or event art credits.
Christensen, Brown and Warren said that Blake had them learn and recite the FFA creed. He then put them on the same team for what they said were strong public speaking abilities.
“I think he just chose us because we can work good together,” Brown said.
The group said once they were paired together, Blake taught them the skill for their contest.
Their skill is small engine maintenance.
“It [was] a Briggs & Stratton 3.5 horsepower lawnmower,” Brown said.
“It is an ag-mechanically based skill that they demonstrate and speak about,” Blake said. He explained this contest is set apart because it is not only a public speaking contest, but it has the added aspect of also being hands on.
The team had to learn and be able to teach things like draining and replacing the oil, replacing a spark plug and other maintenance.
“I would be talking about the spark plug, and Grayson will be putting the new one in,” Christensen said.
The team competed at the district level. They were nervous and felt like they did not perform well.
“We thought we were not going to make it,” Warren said.
“We had a rough start at district,” agreed Brown.
They went on to win first place.
This year, Pilot Point’s FFA won the district sweepstakes and won second in sweepstakes at the area contest.
“It’s like winning the track meet,” Blake explained.
They took 13 teams to district with nine of those teams advancing to area. One team, Christensen, Brown and Warren, advanced to the state contest.
Texas has 12 area contests, and two teams from each area advance to the state contest.
Once at the state contest, the team had to compete in the first heat to advance to the next and final heat.
“They were state finalists after the first night, and then the next day they competed for a state title,” Blake said.
The team would walk away being ninth in the state out of approximately 250 teams.
Blake went on to say, “an ag teacher’s rule of thumb is trying to make it to the finals, and whatever happens after that is icing on the cake.”
“The main goal is to make it there,” he said. “I’m extremely proud of them.”
He said he is proud of the effort that the team put into practicing.
Practices were held at 6:30 a.m. or as late as 8 or 9 p.m. depending on the students’ other extracurricular obligations.
He is also proud to see them go from little to no experience with FFA or public speaking to practicing hard and enduring long hours to become state contenders.
The three students are already signed up for their career development contests in the spring that include equestrian, livestock and meat judging.
Christensen and Brown are also raising hogs for their spring showings.
Look for Christensen, Brown and Warren to compete together in the fall.
“[Mr. Hesteande] said that he wants to keep us together, and we’ll be on the senior skills team,” Warren said.