K-State Crops Team Wins National Championship and Sweeps Top Individual Awards


MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State University Crops Team recently captured the title of national champions by winning both the Kansas City American Royal Collegiate Crops Contest on Nov. 13 and the Chicago Collegiate Crops Contest on Nov. 17. K-State teams have now won the collegiate crops contest championship in 16 of the past 20 years. Iowa State University was in second place at both events, and the University of Minnesota-Crookston took third.

Official members of the K-State team were Wes Jennings, Abilene, junior in agronomy; Luke Ryan, Solomon, sophomore in agronomy; and Jayden Meyer, Smith Center, sophomore in agricultural economics. Alternate contestants were agronomy majors Nate Dick, junior, Inman; Noah Winans, junior, Tekonsha, Michigan; Madison Tunnell, sophomore, Olathe; and Blake Kirchhoff, sophomore, Hardy, Nebraska.

In both contests, the K-State team took first place in all three phases of the contest: plant and seed identification, seed analysis and grain grading. In addition, team members swept the 1-2-3 individual overall placings at both events. Such a sweep of all three contest components and the top three individual placings at both contests is very rare and has only been accomplished twice before in the 85-year history of the events, both times by K-State.

At Chicago, Wes Jennings won first place individual overall. He won both the plant and seed identification and seed analysis components and finished second in grain grading. Luke Ryan was second overall, placing second in identification, third in seed analysis and fourth in identification. Jayden Meyer came in third, tied with Ryan for second in identification, and was fourth in seed analysis and seventh in grain grading. Alternate Nate Dick also had a perfect score in grain grading.

At Kansas City, Jayden Meyer was the top individual overall, where he won the grain grading component with a perfect score. He also was first in identification and second in seed analysis. Wes Jennings was second individual overall, placing first in identification, second in seed analysis, and fourth in grain grading. Luke Ryan was tied for third overall, third in identification, sixth in grain grading and eighth in seed analysis. Alternate Blake Kirchhoff scored a perfect in grain grading also.

The team was coached by Kevin Donnelly, K-State professor of agronomy. Keren Duerksen, Newton, and Kaylin Fink, Chapman, seniors in agronomy, were assistant coaches.

In the contests, participants are required to identify 200 plant or seed samples of crops and weeds; grade eight different samples of grain according to Federal Grain Inspection Service standards; and analyze 10 seed samples to determine what contaminants they contain.

The American Royal coordinated the Kansas City contest, with Corteva Agriscience as the primary awards sponsor. Additional sponsors were GFG Ag Services, CHS Foundation, American Society of Agronomy, Association of Official Seed Analysts, and South Dakota Crop Improvement Association.

The primary sponsor of the Chicago contest was the CME Group. Additional donors in Chicago included the Crop Science Society of America, Growmark Cooperative, and the Society of Commercial Seed Technologists.

For its performance, K-State received a team scholarship award from contest sponsors at Kansas City, and CME Group provided individual scholarships to the top five students at Chicago. They will also receive a stipend from the American Society of Agronomy Reinvest Program to attend the Australia Universities Crops Competition in the fall of 2019.

Locally, sponsors for the K-State Crops Team include the Kansas Crop Improvement Association, Department of Agronomy, College of Agriculture, and the K-State Student Government Association.

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Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.