WT Meat Judging Team

Clockwise from top left are Co-Coach Loni Lucherk, Becca Grimes, Zach McDonough, Jared Young and Jake Gillespie. 

Several local students and graduates from Johnson County were recently a part of history for West Texas A&M University.

Dr. Loni Lucherk, a Grandview native, and graduate assistant Travis Tilton of Cleburne were coaches for the team, which claimed their first-ever national championship earlier this month at the 2020 American Meat Science Association Undergraduate Meat Science Quiz Bowl. The event is held in conjunction with the International Congress of Meat Science and Technology and Reciprocal Meat Conference.

“The American Meat Science Association has been hosting an undergraduate meat science quiz bowl since 2002,” Lucherk said. “This is the first time WT has ever made it to the finals or won the competition.” 

The winning team — the maroon team — included Jake Gillespie of Joshua, a junior agriculture business major; Becca Grimes of Gilmer, a recent graduate in animal science; Jared Young of Wiley, a recent graduate in animal science; and Zach McDonough of Plainview, a junior animal science major.

White team members included Will Boyd of Joshua, a junior animal science major; Patrick Sharp of Ocala, Florida, a junior animal science major; Claire Shaw of Wichita Falls, Texas; and Adrian Lunsford of Grady, New Mexico, a recent graduate in animal science.

“The WT White team made it to the quarterfinals of the winners bracket before being defeated in the losers bracket by the Texas A&M Maroon team,” Lucherk said. “The same TAMU maroon team made it from the losers bracket into the finals to then be defeated by the WTAMU Maroon team in the final round.”

Twenty-one teams competed from 13 universities across the United States.

“The best part was seeing the students get to know each other and create inside jokes about meat science during their practices,” Lucherk said. “They created friendships with students they may never cross paths with in a normal setting. Many of them still have never met, since some have been home for the summer, some were transfer students who are not physically here yet and Jared is already in Minnesota at vet school.”

The online competition was sponsored by the Colorado State University Animal Science department.

“I had the opportunity to watch several rounds and I thought that everyone did an outstanding job,” said Keith Belk, a member of the CSU faculty. “It’s commendable that you were all able to adapt and adjust to this new format. I think we’re right there with you in learning as we go with this new format but I think you’ve done a great job.”

a new format

This year put a kink in the competition, which was held virtually because of the pandemic.

“Every year, the contest is set up as a double elimination bracket,” Lucherk said. “Universities can enter two teams of four students each. Students have to be undergraduates or have graduated within the year of the competition. Students get to compete as many years as they want as long as they don’t win. 

“The winning team is declared National Champions and their eligibility for future years is terminated. They usually answer 40 questions during the in-person quiz bowl, with the first 20 being head-to-head questions, so to make sure each student on the team knows the broad subject of meat science.”

Because of the online format, the teams were only asked 20 questions and eight head-to-head. Teams received 1 point for a correct answer and -1 point for an incorrect answer. If incorrect, the opposing team was given a chance to answer the question.

“I knew from a coaching perspective, this meant we needed to only get questions correct,” Lucherk said. “That sounds simple, but sometimes students buzz in too early in the question or guess at questions and get the answer wrong. I instructed the students to only buzz in if they were 100% sure they knew the answer. 

“This allowed us to not ‘get in a hole’ in terms of score. Other teams tended to over buzz and miss questions, allowing us a chance to stay in the positive and beat them. We only had one ‘returner’ student — Becca Grimes had competed before. 

“Only two of the students on the winning team had taken Meat Science at WT. The other two are just going into their junior year. Since we had a green, young team, I knew we might not know the most knowledge, but we needed to outsmart the other teams on game play strategy. It seemed to have worked.”

While competing together, the WT team members were in Texas, Minnesota, Florida and Kansas.

“The competition used Zoom to ask the questions and Buzzin.live to allow the students to buzz,” Lucherk sad. “We used a similar format in our Zoom practices each night. Becca had said she felt it was a little bit less pressure online than in a normal in-person setting. U

“Usually it is held at the Reciprocal Meat Conference, so attendees can watch in person. These attendees can be from universities, industry companies and government. This year, the rounds were closed to just the coaches and students until the final round which was broadcasted for the world to see on AMSA’s Facebook live.”

Meat Science

Quiz Bowl

“Meat Science Quiz Bowl can cover any facet of meat science,” Lucherk said. “It is similar to jeopardy but about meat science. Much of what they get asked they would learn in a general meat science course at a university level. The competition started in 2002 with questions focused on a couple of meat science books, ‘The Meat We Eat’ and ‘The Principles of Meat Science.’

“Since then, questions have been asked from a wide range of resources that can include topics such as meat industry history, muscle structure and function, food safety regulations, microbiology, meat grading, fabrication and merchandising, meat marketing, processing, packaging, sensory attributes of meat, growth and development of meat animals, chemistry and color, by products, exotic meat animals, labeling, and current events.”

The team members worked together with their difference talents and knowledge to create a successful team. 

“We had a wide range of knowledge on our team,” Lucherk said. “Becca Grimes was our all-star, you could say. She has had the most experience and has competed before. Jared Young was a pre-vet student while at WT, so he was our microbiology and chemistry expert.”

Young is now at the University of Minnesota working on dual degree. 

Zach McDonough has worked in the meat lab and for the Beef Carcass Research Center for the past couple years. He also participated in meat judging in high school and was working in operations for Cargill this summer. 

He had been to a processed meats workshop called Beyond Fresh Meats at Tyson last year, so he was the team’s processed meats expert. 

“Jake Gillespie just transferred to WT from Clarendon College to be on the meat judging team,” Lucherk said. “He knew little to no information before we started practicing this summer. I gave them a binder and a Dropbox folder full of information to study. 

“He was definitely the most improved throughout the summer. 

“Some of the students in the other team (WT White team), Will Boyd and Patrick Sharp were also transfer students from Clarendon and did a great job studying the material this summer since they didn’t have much background knowledge from classes yet.”

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