This spring, members of the Hutchinson Community College Livestock Judging Team were stubborn as bulls. They would not let a pandemic stop them from officiating a show.


Originally, the team was going to offer a live judging event in Hutchinson, until the stay-at-home orders stopped them in their tracks. That’s when they decided to hold a virtual show, the Virtual Salt City Showdown, toward the end of May.


“We had a fear if we should purchase animals for showing,” said incoming sophomore at HCC Kami McComb of Pratt. “We were concerned if we were going to have any showings.”


HCC’s team quickly rallied and decided to purchase animals, hoping summer and fall shows would go on as planned. For McComb, 18, and others, showing is more than the competition.


“The livestock time is our family time,” McComb said.


McComb, who won Reserve champion goat showmanship, fifth overall breeding doe and fifth overall market goat, worked with her siblings to get their sheep and goats ready for showing. She also worked virtually alongside her teammates to plan for the event.


HCC’s livestock judging coach Kane Austin knew he needed to keep the program’s momentum going. He decided to hold the event for students ages 5 through 21. More than 250 applicants from more than 20 states, Canada and Australia sent in videos.


“The swine category was biggest in terms of numbers,” he said. “They came from all four corners of the country and in between.”


Austin said the team’s reputation helped gather a following. Team members helped gather sponsors, designed banners and marketed the event. Austin reached out to judges nationwide. All had careers and degrees in agriculture. Several were HCC Livestock Judging Program graduates.


Zach Bartenslager was on Hutch’s Livestock Judging Team from 2011-2013. He went on to both Ohio State University and the University of Tennessee, ultimately receiving a master’s degree.


“What Hutchinson Community College is doing is great,” said Bartenslager, who now works as an extension officer for the University of Kentucky. “Because of circumstances beyond their control, these kids couldn’t show. It helps feed their hunger and passion during this time. It helps them to be passionate about the agriculture industry.”


Other judges hailed from Colorado, Texas, Indiana, Georgia and Saskatchewan, Canada.


“We wanted to use as many alumni as we could,” Austin said. “They were all really happy to give back.”


Just like the judges, a broad mix of nationwide contestants entered the cattle, pig, goat and lamb categories. Each contestant uploaded a video by May 26. Austin was on Facebook reading off category results during the evening of May 31. The winners were also emailed.


“I’m very thankful that we had this opportunity,” McComb said. “It helped us get critiques and know what we need to change for preparing for future shows.”


One of the youngest contestants, 7-year-old Colyer Williams, of Lyons, agreed. He showed a crossbred ewe, Alpha, and a crossbred barrow, Rocky, for the virtual competition.


“You learn from the shows,” Colyer said. “You try your very hardest to get ready to show the animals.”


The Kansas winners include:


• Nick Siemens, Towanda: Grand Champion breeding heifer


• McKenna Richardson, Eureka: 5th overall breeding heifer and reserve champion intermediate beef cattle showmanship


• Josie Beltz, Canton: Champion novice beef cattle showmanship


• Jase Beltz, Canton: Champion junior beef cattle showmanship


• Taylor Dieball, Little River: reserve champion senior beef cattle showmanship


• Wesley Denton, Blue Rapids: 3rd overall steer


• Carly Dreher, Iola: 4th overall barrow


• Jacob DeRouchey, Wamego: 5th overall barrow and 5th overall breeding gilt


• Sarah Sergeant, Lebo: reserve champion senior swine showmanship


• Kodi McComb, Pratt: 4th overall breeding ewe


• Kadi McComb, Pratt: Champion novice goat showmanship and reserve champion novice sheep showmanship


• Kami McComb, Pratt: Reserve champion goat showmanship, 5th overall breeding doe and 5th overall market goat


• Mason Rookstool, Wamego: Champion junior sheep showmanship and reserve champion junior goat showmanship


• Hannah Dechant, Goodland: 3rd overall market lamb


• Colyer Williams, Lyons: champion novice sheep showmanship and 5th overall market lamb


• Kalen Dressler, Eudora: reserve champion senior sheep showmanship