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Phoenix High students, alumni win FFA awards

Phoenix High School students and alumni competing in a national floriculture competition over the weekend returned to Oregon with a handful of awards.

Two students and two alumni competed individually and as a team at the national Future Farmers of America championships, a four-day competition in Indianapolis, Ind., which included floriculture, an event focusing on floral arrangements and plant knowledge.

Phoenix senior Grace Pretchel took home a gold medal for placing in the top 40 of nearly 200 competitors from across the nation.

Scoring highest among her team, Pretchel received a gold pin for her FFA jacket.

"It was a little overwhelming, but it was so much fun," said Pretchel. "All of us were really nervous."

Pretchel and her three teammates were tested on plant knowledge and the ability to create a themed flower arrangement and took a quiz about floriculture.

Each student also had to participate in a mock job interview for a floral arrangement job.

After winning a statewide competition in April, the girls began preparing for the national competition with help from their agriculture teacher, Rachel Kostman.

"We did pretty well," said Kostman, who has taken teams from Phoenix to the national championship four times.

The team also used the help of local florists to learn techniques for flower arrangement, which were judged at the competition for such things as balance, symmetry and form.

For their team activity, the girls were instructed to create a classic wedding arrangement from flowers. "We all did well on the arrangements, and the tests," said Pretchel.

Two recent Phoenix grads who were part of the team, Angelina Tibbetts and Kaitlin Hertel, each took home silver honors, while Phoenix junior Constance Robertson received a bronze award.

Overall the team was ranked with a silver award, meaning it placed in the middle third of teams nationwide.

"The other teams were all really good competitors," said Pretchel.

Because the team went to nationals this year, Pretchel and Kostman aren't eligible to compete in floriculture competitions for the FFA again, but the girls are still able to compete in other FFA events, including food science, agriculture sales and nursery, which Pretchel said she plans to do this year.

Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.