Four University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources students captured first place at the regional Animal Science Academic Quadrathlon, which was held in conjunction with the American Society of Animal Science’s (ASAS) Midwest Conference last month.
Jacob Blank, Madison Filley, Emily Shanks and Anna Tarpey will represent MU at the national competition, which is set to be held in July in Madison, Wisconsin. Four teams will compete at the national competition.
The idea of the academic quadrathlon (AQ) was conceived in 1967, and the first official AQ competition was held in 1981 as part of the ASAS Midwest Conference at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The AQ competition is designed to increase student engagement and awareness of scientific conferences as well as developing a sense of team accomplishment.
The annual competition tests students’ animal science knowledge of livestock and companion animal species covering disciplines of genetics, physiology, nutrition, reproduction and animal products. The 2020 regional competition was held in Nebraska, with a portion of the competition held on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus and the remainder in Omaha, Nebraska, March 1-2.
“It feels good to know that we’re learning exactly what we’re supposed to be, that we have taken things away from our classes and that we can actually apply it, especially under pressure, too,” said Tarpey, a junior from Wildwood, Missouri.
Filley, Shanks and Tarpey are all animal sciences majors. Blank is an agricultural education and leadership major and is minoring in animal sciences. Blank plans to one day teach agricultural education. The four first competed in the local AQ against other MU teams. MU teams compete against each other to decide which team will represent Mizzou at the regional competition. Blank, Filley, Shanks and Tarpey placed first at the local level, punching their ticket to represent Mizzou at the regional competition.
Blank and Tarpey, both juniors, said they enjoyed the biology of animal production class that they took freshman year, when they learned about the animal science quadrathlon. Excited by the opportunity, the two formed a team with other students and they’ve competed in the local competition ever since.
Filley joined their team two years ago. This was the first time Shanks, a senior from Vienna, Missouri, participated in the competition. Each team is made up of four undergraduate students.
“We’re a very diverse group and we all have our own individual strengths,” said Blank, who is from Richland, Missouri. “We all work in different aspects of animal science directly with our jobs and I think that also helped us to do as well as we did.”
There are four components to the competition: quiz bowl, lab practicum, oral presentation and a written test. During the quiz bowl, students answer questions related to animal agriculture. The lab practicum tests students’ ability to perform physical skills. For the oral presentation, each team is given a list of topics to choose from, then an hour to prepare an eight- to 10-minute presentation. Each team is given four to six written tests to take together, divvying up questions as they see fit.
Thirteen teams participated in the competition, representing schools including Purdue University, Iowa State University, University of Findlay, North Dakota State University, and South Dakota State University.
“It was cool meeting the teams and to know there are other people out there that share your same passion and vision,” Blank said. “It’s kind of inspiring.”
Filley, a senior from St. Louis, Missouri, has been participating in the quadrathlon since sophomore year.
“We finally had taken the classes that we needed to do really well,” Filley said. “We were looking forward to seeing what we had gotten out of our education.The first year we were missing a few fundamental classes, so it set us back and we wanted to see how we could do with the classes.”
The team also took advantage of the opportunity to learn during the ASAS’s Midwest Conference.
“We were exposed to a wide variety of professors and graduate students doing research in the field that were going into,” Filley said. “It was neat to see how each of them dedicate their time towards that and to watch presentations and learn current updates on animal science.”
The team also pointed out that they wouldn’t have been as successful if it weren’t for the help of their advisor, Addison Byrne, an instructor within animal sciences. Byrne was one of the coordinators of MU’s local quadrathlon and traveled with the team to Nebraska for the regional competition.
“She deserves our greatest respect for putting together the local competition and helping us get this far,” Blank said.
Looking forward to the national competition, the team said they were going to focus on improving their weaknesses.
Students interested in learning more about the Animal Science Academic Quadrathlon should contact Byrne.