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Success without Studying

50th Annual National Collegiate Soils Contest Gets Dirty

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Success Without Studying

Story and Photo Brooke ParkeyTrophy and Buckle from contest


Every championship team has an inspiration for competing and Texas Tech’s agronomy team is no exception. It’s the third year in a row for the Red Raiders to take the national title and bring home another championship to the man behind the scenes, Craig Bednarz, Ph.D.

Bednarz, a professor of crop physiology in The Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, has been the leader and inspiration behind the agronomy team for the last four years. His enthusiasm for the contest and laid-back attitude has created a winning tradition, and produced teams that are known for dominating  the competition.              

“He’s really the inspiration behind the team,” said Heath Reeves, a senior from Cotton Center. “The enthusiasm he has for this competition is incredible.”

This year’s competition was held in Pittsburgh, Pa., and hosted more than 20 teams from across the nation. Participants competed in oral and poster presentation events, as well as the Quiz Bowl. Every year competing schools are given the opportunity to submit 10 new questions for the event; five soils based, and five general agronomics.

Since the team is unaware of the questions that will be asked during competition they do very little studying. Success comes from Bednarz’ team being upperclassman who have taken the classes and have a solid base of knowledge.

“If you ask Bednarz what his secret is to drilling his team, he’ll tell you that he really doesn’t do that,” Thomas Thompson, Ph.D., department chair and professor of plant and soil science said. “Having won three national championships it is no fluke. It’s the real deal.”

Bednarz’s stress-free attitude is what keeps the team relaxed and the competition fun. “Some of the other schools are really serious about the competition and spend the whole trip studying. We keep it fun and then beat everybody else when it counts,” Reeves said.

However, the agronomy team is not lacking in advice. Before the competition this year, Bednarz told his team to loosen up and have a good time. “He gives good advice,” Reeves said. His favorite piece being, “If you’re gonna burn your candle at both ends, you’re gonna burn your fingers.”