4-Her Matejka, 16, heads to USA judging challenge

“I’m dealing with people five years older than me.” — Tyson Matejka

One sign of being a leader is being able to make decisions in the spur of the moment and backing them up.

For 4-Her Tyson Matejka that skill will take him to the United States for a 4-H judging competition, called Western National Roundup in Colorado, Jan. 9 to 12. The competition will bring competitors from across the United States and four Albertans, including Matejka, will represent Canada at the roundup.

Matejka’s job is to judge a large selection of agricultural products such as grains and vegetables, and animals such as cattle, swine, goats and sheep. Each animal category has sub-categories and Matejka knows it is going to be a challenge. Every detail is important to be aware of. “It could be down to the feet.”

The 16-year-old member of the West Ponoka 4-H Club placed fourth at a regional judging competition, which qualified his entry at the roundup.

“To come out in the top four is a pretty good deal,” said Matejka.

Being able to judge an animal is only one part of his challenge, Matejka will also have to explain to competition judges why he chose a specific animal over another, “to see how well you can back up your own opinion.”

What is even more challenging is he will have to recall his different choices and explain to judges why he chose a specific category. To practice, Matejka has taken to his family farm to look at the animals there. “Even standing in the field you analyze two cows together.”

He feels these competitions will help later in life because of the decisions people have to make each day. This will also help develop his memory, as much of his response will be from remembering an animal from the previous day.

Judging will not be easy as the competition is for ages 16 to 21 and some of his opponents have been in this quite some time. “I’m dealing with people five years older than me.”

Members of the 4-H clubs in Ponoka have judging challenges as part of their program, says his mother, Kathy. She recalls giving youths a chance to compare donuts and to give reasons why one was better than another. “It’s basic decision-making skills.”

These programs also help members with their communication skills. Matejka has had to become accustomed to using a large vocabulary when adjudicating.

This is Matejka’s first challenge outside of Canada.

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