The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Livestock Judging team finished its 2023 season earning numerous accolades, including 12 top-eight overall finishes, 31 top-eight division finishes and 53 individual top-10 finishes. The team also celebrated its first academic all-American honoree in program history. In addition, the high-achieving team was led by the Intercollegiate Livestock Judging Team Coach of the Year Blaine French.
French, the team’s coach since the fall of 2019, was voted as the coach of the year by the Intercollegiate Livestock Judging Coaches Association. The award is believed to be the first earned by a livestock judging coach at the university.
“I’m very excited and humbled to be awarded this honor,” said French. “I view it as a staff and team award because it shows that we are a well-respected program and compete well at all contests.”
Senior team member Ainsley Fischer, an animal science major from Franktown, Colo., gained valuable coaching and experience from French that will help her post-graduation.
“I’m pursuing jobs in the livestock nutrition industry where interacting with producers will be very important,” said Fischer. “The understanding of all livestock species that I’ve gained will be invaluable to me in all agricultural job settings.
The livestock judging team is one of five judging teams in the Department of Animal Science, along with meat judging, horse judging, animal welfare judging, and the meat animal evaluation (MAE) team, a capstone judging activity for those interested in the meat animal production industries.
Elizabeth Hodges, a senior agricultural and environmental science communication and animal science double major, from Julian, Neb., was a member of the meat judging team in 2022 and also competed on the MAE team this year along with the livestock judging team. Hodges earned academic All-America honors this season.
“My father, Michael Hodges, competed on the MAE and livestock judging teams when he attended Nebraska and has always spoken highly of his time judging here,” said Hodges. “I always knew that I wanted to be involved with judging teams, and Coach French’s passion for judging and the livestock industry is so contagious. I’m thankful that I attend a university where I have the opportunity to be so involved in organizations on campus.”