Nebraska 4-H Horticulture team

The Nebraska 4-H Hotriculture Team poses with the national team trophy at the national competition in Indianapolis in early October. From left:  Wyatt Moravec of David City, Erik Henry of Omaha, Elizabeth Cunningham of Fullerton, Emma Ketelsen of St. Edward, and coach Michael Rethwisch. Team members were chosen by their results at the Nebraska State Fair horticulture competition. The competition was the final one for Rethwiisch, who has relocated to his former home of Blythe California after working with Butler County Extension for a decade. 

COURTESY PHOTO

Veni, vidi, vici. This phrase, attributed to Julius Caesar which means "I came, I saw, I conquered", may not have been the theme for the 2017 Nebraska 4-H Horticulture team, but it does express what happened the first weekend of October in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Nebraska 4-H horticulture team came to the National 4-H Horticulture Contest, they saw the many plant specimens, and they conquered the rest of the country. It isn’t very often you win the national contest, and one of Butler County’s 4-H members was an integral member of the team.

Wyatt Moravec, son of Tony and Erica Moravec of David City, placed eighth individually. He was joined on the 2017 Nebraska team by Erik Henry of Omaha, who led the Nebraska team by placing third, and Elizabeth Cunningham (4th) of Fullerton and Emma Ketelsen (5th) of St. Edward. The Nebraska team members were selected from their placings at the Nebraska State 4-H Contest held in Grand Island the first weekend of the Nebraska State Fair.

The 2017 national contest consisted of identifying 100 horticultural specimens, eight sets of judging, and an 80 question written test. The identification sections (vegetables; fruits, nuts and berries; flowers/indoor plants; landscape ornamentals) were very challenging, consisting of 25 specimens from the four horticultural areas. Contestants were not provided with the entire plan and oftern had only a twig, seed, bulb, leaf, fruit, etc. Interesting specimens noted on the 2017 contest included the leaves of coffee, papaya and macadamia nuts, as well as dahlia seeds.

The Nebraska team was the top overall team in the identification of flowers, landscape plants, and fruits/nuts/berries, and was second in the written test. Teams from New York, California, Maryland and Kansas followed Nebraska in the top five states in 2017 competition. New York was led by Meaghan Pierce who was the 2017 top 4-H individual.

While a National Championship might bring up thoughts of years of preparation, there are some contestants who have the talent and the drive to place among the top constestants right away.

Wyatt Moravec was one of those contestants, said

Michael Rethwisch, University of Nebraska-Lincoln extension educator in Butler County, who served as coach for the 2017 Nebraska 4-H team.

He noted that the 2017 team members worked very hard in their contest preparations, especially when all the other states were thought to have had their team members selected before Nebraska had their contest.

“Wyatt deserves extra recognition, as Wyatt had not been involved with horticulture before August of this year, and in just two months he placed in the top 10 in the nation,” Rethwisch said.

Wyatt said that he only got involved in the competition after his sister Macyn told him about it and urged him to try it. Wyatt said Macyn is probably more knowledgeable about the plants, but her age puts her in the junior division.

Wyatt, a sophomore at Aquinas, said he recognized the opportunity to compete might not be around because Rethwisch was moving back to California.

“I heard Mr. Rethwisch was leaving,” Wyatt said. “He’s probably the best coach in America.”

What would he tell other young 4-Hers who have the option of competing?

“It is a lot of work, but if you want to go to the State Fair and win something, this would be a very good area to enter in. If you put in a little effort you can go long way,” he said.

For nationals, the Nebraska team members did not know each other for long before they went in into completion.

“We had a few practices, but everybody was busy with homecomings and other events,” he said.

Wyatt’s is the oldest of five children in the Moravec family.

The Nebraska 4-H Team also participated in Horticulture Connnections, a competitive event that is a mix of several game shows and involves trivia and other facts related to horticulture. The team won several rounds before being outscored by the California 4-H team in the final round.

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