Department COVID-19 Updates:

Cheering on the Aggies

Cheering on the Aggies

Aggie students from the NCTA farm crew take a break from gathering cattle. (M. Crawford / NCTA photo archive)
Aggie students from the NCTA farm crew take a break from gathering cattle. (M. Crawford / NCTA photo archive)

NCTA Dean’s Message by Larry Gossen, Ph.D.

It’s great to look up in the stands of a sporting event and see family, friends and the community cheering us on. Who doesn’t appreciate a fan club?

I was a student athlete (and a coach, a short time) decades ago, and it was motivating to know there was a booster club, pep band or family to cheer from the sidelines or in the gymnasium.

Take the collegiate setting this Fall season for Aggies representing the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture.

Not all competitions are the exciting spectator events around the arena for rodeo or a ranch horse contest.

The stillness of a crop judging contest or livestock evaluation is equally competitive for participants, yet in a more sedate atmosphere. One hears the movement of judges and certainly livestock, without fanfare from the stands.

If you’ve witnessed the quasi-active environment yet deep concentration and focus required of competitors in a sporting clays match or a working cattle dog trial, you know spectators speak in hushed tones.

Aggie fans

In their season finale for nine members of the NCTA Ranch Horse Team in Torrington, Wyoming, the Aggie fan club helped cheer on seasoned exhibitors and perhaps helped calm some of the nervous, first-time athletes.

“It was pretty neat as multiple parents made it out to watch this group,” said Joanna Hergenreder, Aggie coach and NCTA associate professor of animal science.

“Cauy’s mom and grandma have not missed a show yet!” Joanna shared of Cauy Bennett (from Elwood, Nebraska) in a post-script to her contest report.

Additionally, Gwen Olberding’s parents from Falls City, Gillian Brinker’s mom and grandma from Hawaii, and a few friends from Curtis drove out to support the team. 

Brinker, whose pre-college years and summer internship were in Alaska, said she knew her mother was flying from Hawaii to Colorado, driving to Torrington and Curtis afterward, but her grandmother’s trip for the adventure was a complete surprise.

“It was special to have that many folks travel that far to support the kids for the Torrington show,” Joanna said.

Parents and friends of the Aggie Shotgun Sports Team also follow the team, when possible.

Yvonne Barnhart of McCook purchased a “parent of an NCTA Aggie” shirt from the campus store in support of her sophomore son, Trey, who is a team officer and competitor on the Shotgun Sports Team. She has also traveled to contests at Lincoln and North Platte.

Two years ago, parents traveled to the national contest in Texas, to support the team members.

Kaden Bryant of Firth has family who are nearby to Lincoln contests. Emily Miller of Norton, Kansas, is the top female athlete on the team. Her parents traveled, when possible, to matches in Grand Island, North Platte, Lincoln and elsewhere, too.

Supporting partners

We appreciate the strong relationships from many area stakeholders and industry partners. Their support was evident at the recent Career Day and Job Fair in Curtis.

Leaders at Ag Valley Coop asked Agronomy Professor Brad Ramsdale how they can assist NCTA agronomy and Aggie students. Soon, AVC will provide four $500 scholarships for freshman who are returning the following year as sophomores on the NCTA Crops Judging Team.

The cooperative also is seeking interns for summer work, and potential fulltime employment here in Southwest Nebraska, said Haley Ehrke of AVC public relations.

Livestock Judging Coach and Animal Science Associate Professor Doug Smith relies on many partners throughout the year for the team practices. A judging “boot camp” ahead of each semester gives students opportunities to travel to nearby purebred or ag operations for judging workouts.

Team members also stop by producer-partner operations as they travel to contests in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Iowa and elsewhere for the chance to see top-quality livestock for cattle, goats, sheep, and swine.

These mentions are only a few of the dozens, if not hundreds, of supporting measures to our Aggie students and campus. Thank you to all alumni, businesses, families, friends and organizations who continue to cheer on NCTA.

Tribute to Kelly Popp

Next week, the NCTA Stock Dog Team and alumni friends will pay tribute to Kelly Popp, mentor and longtime volunteer coach for the Aggie team, by co-hosting the Kelly Popp Memorial Stock Dog Trial Dec. 11-12 at NCTA in the Livestock Teaching Center indoor arena.

Kelly passed away unexpectedly Nov. 19. A celebration of life will be Friday, Dec. 10 at 3 p.m. at the Berean Bible Church in Curtis. We look forward to alumni from the stock dog community returning to Curtis for this special weekend.

The NCTA Stock Dog Team joins the regional Outback Stock Dog Association, of which Kelly is a co-founder, in hosting the dog trial. Eddie Merritt, Kelly’s close friend and a co-coach for the Aggies, is coordinating the trial with

Leighlynn Obermiller, NCTA veterinary technology instructor and current coach. Details will be posted at Outback Stock Dog Association social media pages, call Eddie Merritt of Wellfleet, or email Leighlynn here on campus at

NCTA Campus Events:

Dec. 2:  FFA District 11 Leadership Development Events, NCTA campus

Dec. 7:  NCTA FFA & 4-H Club field trip and dinner, WCREC in North Platte

Dec. 10:  NCTA Fall Semester Classes Complete

Dec. 11-12:  NCTA/Outback Kelly Popp Memorial Stock Dog Trial, 8 a.m. daily, LTC Arena

Dec. 13-16:  NCTA Fall Semester Final Exams

Part of the University of Nebraska system, the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture is a two-year institution with a statewide mission of preparing students for successful careers in agriculture, veterinary technology and related industries. NCTA is known for its affordable tuition, high job-placement rate for its graduates, and for the success of student teams in competitive activities including crops judging, ranch horse events, livestock judging, shotgun sports, stock dog trials, and intercollegiate rodeo. The college is consistently ranked as one of the best two-year schools in the nation.