2021 Maryland Soil Judgers Head to the 60th National Soil Judging Competition

After the 2020 competition was cancelled due to COVID, the Terrapin team made up of all new judgers advances to the national competition as defending champions

Front Row: Isabelle Dallam, Hayley Welzant, Sonya Matlack, Madelyn Haines; Back Row: Martin Rabenhorst (Coach), Jack Murphy, Mariano Dessardo, Lauren Wyatt-Brown, Jordan Kim (Asst. Coach), Ashlyn Hill, Jocelyn Wardrup (Asst. Coach).

October 18, 2021 Dr. Martin Rabenhorst

The Maryland soil judgers managed a 3rd place finish among a field of 12 teams from 8 universities to qualify for a spot representing the NE region at the 60th National Soil Judging Competition to be hosted by Ohio State University next April. The entirely “fresh” team of judgers (no veterans) included three who made it among the top 10 individuals (Jack Murphy – 4th; Hayley Welzant – 8th; Madelyn Haines – 9th) to move ahead of Penn State (5th place) and the Univ. of Delaware (4th place), and qualify for the national competition. The University of Rhode Island finished in 1st place with Delaware Valley University close behind in 2nd place. Also participating were Bloomington University, Univ. of Pittsburgh Johnstown and Stockton University of New Jersey.

For Maryland and some of the other schools, this two year COVID period without soil judging meant that all previous judgers with experience had graduated, and all of this year’s squad were first-timers. While the Maryland judgers weren’t crowding the very top of the leader board, they demonstrated considerable depth in the roster, with three finishing in the top 10, and an additional three in the top 20. This of course is a plus for the team, but also brings challenges for the coaching staff.

This year’s contest (hosted by Delaware Valley Univ.) was held in the vicinity of Allentown, PA at the Rodale Institute where soils were formed in such parent materials as shale and limestone residuum, colluvium and Illinoian-aged glacial till. In the field, students mostly saw Alfisols and Ultisols (with an occasional Inceptisol), and had to address such issues as aquic suborders, skeletal particle size families and HTM (human transported materials).

The University of Rhode Island also had three individuals among the top 10 and Delaware Valley had two, but the strength of their high scorers (in 2nd and 1st places, respectively), helped to carry these schools to the top. Ohio State University had been planning to host the National Competition in 2020 when COVID restrictions required that the event be cancelled, and last year there was no soil judging at all during the academic year. It is anticipated that approximately 24 teams from the seven regions around the country will be participating in the 60th national competition in late April, where the Terrapins (who won the 59th competition in SLO California) currently stand as the defending national champions.