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A fitting addition: World Dairy Expo contest format changes allow more youth to participate

Jenny Binversie for Progressive Dairyman Published on 20 October 2016
WDE youth fitting contest senior girls

The youth fitting contest at World Dairy Expo on Sunday, Oct. 2, welcomed an unprecedented number of contestants this year with 22 youth competing compared to 10 last year.

Reasons for the sudden growth stemmed from World Dairy Expo’s decision to add three new divisions, which included an intermediate division for youth ages 13 to 16 years old, and for the first time ever, the males and females were split in both the intermediate division and senior division, ages 17 to 21.



“We lowered the age of the contestants and added a separate division for the females as a way to increase participation,” says Katie Coyne-DeBruin, World Dairy Expo’s youth fitting and showmanship superintendent. “We are trying to grow this competition and feel it was a positive change. We more than doubled our participation from last year.”

While the decision was carefully thought out, social media initially reacted with mixed emotions. Some pegged the gender division as “disappointing” and “frustrating,” while others agreed it was “empowering” and “a good addition.”

“I received a lot of positive feedback from this year’s participants,” Coyne-DeBruin says. “Many of the girls told me they signed up because they could compete against their peers.”

This year, seven out of the 22 contestants were females compared to only two competing last year.

Melissa Sprecher of Sauk City, Wisconsin, says the addition of a female-only category was the main reason why she competed. “I knew more girls would come out, so I figured I might as well give it a shot!”


Sprecher, who has been showing and fitting cattle since she was in the fifth grade, won the intermediate female division.

“Winning my division shows me that I am doing what is right for me,” Sprecher says. “All the decisions I have made the past few years, investing in animals, is worth it. Me, clipping all the time, it’s worth it because I am good enough.”

Olivia Brandenburg clipping cow

Topping the senior female division was Elizabeth Acel of Guys Mills, Pennsylvania. This was Acel’s second year competing. In 2015, she placed 10th overall.

“I don’t see a problem with [the gender division] because I want more youth to compete,” Acel says. “Some girls may have felt intimidated to compete in years past, but for me, I was going to compete anyways. It has always been my goal to get into the top five.”

Acel started clipping when she was 8 years old. She remembers her show heifer being tied to a silo when her mom put a pair of clippers in her hand.


“My mom said, ‘You’re doing this for yourself. No one else is going to clip for you. You’re going to do this regardless of what she’ll look like,’” Acel says. “My parents taught me to do things for myself. I’ve learned a lot along the way.”

This past summer, Acel has been clipping at numerous shows as well as for farmers who classify and picture. “It means a lot to win the fitting contest at World Dairy Expo because I’ve put a lot of hours into clipping.”

Katelyn Neff of Cochranton, Pennsylvania, placed third in the senior female division. “For me, the gender division was nice because I wanted more girls to compete. But I would still like to compete with the boys because it doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy when it comes to fitting. We did get more competitors though and that’s what is important.”

Joan Seidel of Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, an accomplished female fitter of 25 years, served as the fitting judge and says the changes are a “way to open up more opportunity” for youth.

“I thought it was really great to have the four divisions,” Seidel says. “I feel the contest will only grow as kids realize there is a place for them in the competition.”

Seidel says the top few senior girls and boys definitely matched each other in fitting technique and quality.

The winner of the senior male division, Levi Banowetz of Charlotte, Iowa, competed the past two years but never won until this year.

“To win, it’s a big deal,” Banowetz says. “There aren’t a lot of fitting competitions, so to be recognized among some of the best young fitters is pretty cool.”

Banowetz has been clipping cattle since he first joined 4-H in fourth grade. “This competition gives me something to work toward. It makes me keep an edge and get better.”

Trevor Tuman clipping cow

During the competition, contestants are judged on the following: ease of handling equipment, 20 points; proper clipping technique on the body, 20 points; proper topline hair grooming (including blowing and clipping), 30 points; hair is blended properly, 10 points; proper use of sprays and adhesives, 10 points; and preparation completely finished, 10 points.

“Youth will already have their animal’s head and legs clipped prior to the contest,” Seidel says. “They will then have 60 minutes to finish fitting their animal to show-ready.”

Seidel has judged numerous youth fitting competitions across the nation. She says what she looks for is the youth’s technique on how they go about getting to the end destination.

The prizes for the contestants include Aesculap, Wahl or Lister clippers being awarded to the top two to three contestants in each division, while neck ribbons, medallions and cash prizes are awarded to the top five in each division.

“I hope more youth take the opportunity to come out and participate,” Seidel says. “I think the female division will grow each year.”

The winner of the intermediate male division, Grant Fremstad of Westby, Wisconsin, agrees. “The worst thing you can do is not try. It’s a good experience; it makes us better! You’ll learn from the best!”

Youth interested in competing in the fitting contest are encouraged to contact Coyne-DeBruin if they don’t have an animal for the competition. “This year we had a few contestants use World Dairy Expo sale animals,” she says. “There is an opportunity for everyone. I would love to see 40 youth in this competition.”  end mark

Jenny Binversie is a freelance writer based in Wisconsin.

PHOTO 1: Senior female division fitting contest participants, from left to right: Alan Deming, World Dairy Expo board president; Hanna Dellaire, fifth place; Emma Weisensel, fourth place; Katelyn Neff, third place; Olivia Brandenburg, second place; Elizabeth Acel, first place; and Joan Seidel, judge. Photo courtesy of World Dairy Expo.

PHOTO 2: Olivia Brandenburg of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, placed second in the senior female division of the fitting contest. Photo by Nina Linton.

PHOTO 3: Trevor Tuman of Arlington, Minnesota, concentrates while working on a topline during the fitting contest. Photo by Nina Linton.

2016 World Dairy Expo Youth Fitting Contest

Total participants: 22

Intermediate female:

  1. Melissa Sprecher, Sauk City, Wisconsin
  2. Hannah Nelson, Ellsworth, Wisconsin

Intermediate male:

  1. Grant Fremstad, Westby, Wisconsin
  2. Kurtis Frischknecht, Teeswater, Ontario
  3. Tucker True, Perry, New York
  4. Benjamin Kronberg, Milton, Wisconsin
  5. Alek Krueger, Hazel Green, Wisconsin

Senior female:

  1. Elizabeth Acel, Guys Mills, Pennsylvania
  2. Olivia Brandenburg, Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin
  3. Katelyn Neff, Cochranton, Pennsylvania
  4. Emma Weisensel, Waunakee, Wisconsin
  5. Hanna Dellaire, Milton, Ontario

Senior male (10 participants):

  1. Levi Banowetz, Charlotte, Iowa
  2. Austin Nauman, Norwalk, Wisconsin
  3. Daniel Hosking, New Berlin, New York
  4. Benjamin Powers, Menomonie, Wisconsin
  5. Eddie Sekerak, Columbus, Pennsylvania