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Gilliland takes top showmanship honors

For nearly three hours Friday evening, eight 4-Hers demonstrated their skills in the show ring, competing for the coveted title of Champion All-Around Showman.

In the end, Evan Gilliland came out on top, taking the 39th All-Around Showmanship title at the 2015 LaGrange County 4-H Fair.

“Holy moly,” Gilliland said was his first thought when Judge Tracie Egger came up and shook his hand to declare him the winner. Gilliland is the son of Brad and Michelle Gilliland and a 10-year 4-H member. He is a 2015 graduate of Prairie Heights High School and will attend Purdue University in the fall to work toward a degree in animal science with a concentration in bioscience.

“I worked hard,” Gilliland said of the buildup to the all-around show. Gilliland represented the swine barn and said he spent every night with his hog since March. He also spent at least 15 hours practicing with the other animals the two days prior to the competition.

Each competitor had to show a total of seven animals, with the top showman from each barn watching the others show that animal. Included were horse, draft horse, swine, goat, sheep, started calf, beef, and dairy.

“I had great animals to work with,” Gilliland said. At one point he turned the wrong way in the draft horse show, he said, and thought he had blown his chances.

Still, he edged out returning all-around champion Sydney Rathburn, who represented the started calf barn. “Sydney is an amazing showman. I didn’t think I’d get past her,” Gilliland said. “There is not a better way to end 4-H.”

Along with the traveling trophy, Gilliland received a check from the show’s founder, Dusty Feller.

Reserve Champion Rathburn is the daughter of Randy and Rhonda Rathburn of Hudson and will be starting her sophomore year at Prairie Heights High School. She is a seven-year member of the Stroh Straight Shooters 4-H Club and shows started calves and swine, along with numerous other projects. She also shows started calves at the Indiana State Fair.

Holly Klein represented the draft horse barn and is the daughter of Junior and Teila Klein of Shipshewana. She will be a junior at Westview High School, where she is also a member of the FFA. She is an eight-year member of the Draft Horse Club and Horse And Pony Club. She shows draft horses at the world and state levels and plans to attend college to work in the equine field.

Logan Lewton represented the goat barn. He is the son of Jason and Melisa Lewton and will be a junior at Westview High School. He plays soccer and is active with his church’s youth group. He also enjoys hunting.

Austin Buonocore represented the beef barn. He is the son of Jakcie and Gary Myers and Frank Bounocore. He has been a member of the Lima Lads and Lassies 4-H Club and has had Grand Champion Dairy Beef, Grand Champion Steer, and Grand Champion Started Calf. He has also been champion showman in junior, senior and premier showmanship. He plans to attend Ivy Tech and major in construction technology.

Cole Miller is the son of Tom and Robbie Miller of LaGrange and will a senior at Lakeland High School. He is a member of the Academic Super Bowl Team and an ambassador of Lakeland’s Leading Edge New Tech High School. He is also a member of L.I.F.E., the Purdue Extension Youth Board and Boy Scouts of America, earning his Eagle Scout award in 2013. He has been a 4-Her for nine years and has shown horses, pigs, and sheep and added beef this year.

Josh Perkins represented the dairy barn in the all-around large animal showmanship. He is the son of Rod and Kathy Perkins of Stroh and will be a senior this year at Prairie Heights High School. He is a member of the Stroh Straight Shooters 4-H Club, taking dairy, started calf, rifle, shotgun and tractor driving projects. He enjoys running cross country and track, FFA, and the Stroh Church of Christ Youth Group.

Erin Miller represented the Horse and Pony Club and is the daughter of Mel and Shawn Miller of LaGrange. She is a 10-year 4-Her who has participated in many projects along the way. She will be attending the University of Indianapolis in the fall to study exercise science along with pre-physical therapy.