Merrill High School students Ben Sosnovske, Joel Oelke and Jacob Jensen teamed up to win the state Agriculture Mechanics and Engineering competition at the Wisconsin FFA Career Developments Events, held Friday, April 25, at UW Madison.
Individually, Oelke and Sosnovske placed first and second, respectively, at the state contest. The competition included an individual test about crop production, seven individual skills stations and a team test in which they had to design a machine shed. The team improved on their performance at regionals, where they placed 2nd out of 50 teams to qualify for state.
More than 174 schools participated at the state level in a variety of categories. The MHS team competed against 54 others in Agriculture Mechanics and Engineering. The boys from MHS blew out the competition, scoring 662 points, 47 ahead of second place.
The team will be headed to the national competition in Louisville, KY in the fall. The top prize at nationals is a trip to a foreign country.
Joel, a senior, will be in college by then, but plans to do some serious preparation with his teammates.
“For nationals, we’re going to put some time into it and give it a good run,” he said.
MHS FFA Advisor Brigid Reimann said the skills the student brought to the competition are a combination of things they’ve learned in school and on their own. They also received some guidance from Ben’s cousin, Ryan Block, who works at a farm implement dealership.
Oelke works on a farm and his father owns a dairy equipment business. He will be attending UW River Falls in the fall to major in Dairy Science.
Ben and Jacob are both juniors. Ben works on his family’s dairy farm and plans to take over the farm one day. He is involved in all aspects of the family’s dairy operation.
Jacob has been working with machinery since a very young age. He has spent the most time with construction equipment that his family’s construction company owns. He plans to go NTC and Michigan Technical University to earn a mechanical engineering degree. After that he wants to get some experience and eventually come back to work with his family.
Ben and Joel were part of a team that took eighth place at state last year.
It has been more than 20 years since MHS had a state winner. In fact, Ben’s dad, Marty Sosnovske, was Merrill’s last winner, taking a first in Forestry in 1992.
An MHS team also qualified for state in the Wildlife contest this year. The team of Tanner Pettit, Kyle Juhlke, Dylan Heller and Isaac Buntrock placed 21st at state.