Southwest North Dakota girl juggles state basketball, livestock judging championships in one weekend

Abbi Steeke, right, evaluates a class of livestock at the state livestock judging contest on March 2 in Fargo. Forum News Service
Abbi Steeke, right, evaluates a class of livestock at the state livestock judging contest on March 2 in Fargo. Forum News Service

FARGO — Abbi Steeke may not have walked away with a state basketball championship or a state 4-H livestock judging championship this year. But she certainly demonstrated how to be a champion multi-tasker.

Steeke, of Rhame, was on the Hettinger-Scranton team that competed in the North Dakota Class B basketball tournament held in Grand Forks Feb. 28-March 2. But before her team played its last game March 2, she drove to Fargo to compete in the state 4-H livestock judging contest.

“You'll always remember it,” Steeke said of the experience. “And our basketball coach always says you'll always remember state tournaments. So just knowing that I didn't just do a basketball tournament, I also did a state 4-H contest.”

Hettinger-Scranton lost that last game to Thompson, 52-46, to end up in fourth place in the eight-team tournament. Steeke’s Golden Valley judging team took fifth.

Donny Feiring, Steeke’s livestock judging coach, called Steeke a “hard-working, determined” person. Bowman County didn’t have enough judges to fill out a senior division team, so Steeke joined up with Feiring’s Golden Valley County team and took ninth place out of the 69 senior division judges.

“She’s an amazing individual,” Feiring said. “She’s just a very energetic kid who has a lot of great things going for her.”

Making North Dakota’s state Class B basketball tournament is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most students. Before this year, girls teams from Scranton never had made the tournament and girls teams from Hettinger hadn’t made it since 1995. But that didn’t sway Steeke from focusing on her livestock judging.

Steeke said she’s been involved in judging since fourth grade. In livestock judging, competitors judge groups of four animals in a variety of classes and give sets of reasons to judges as to why they placed classes the way they did.

Steeke described how she would practice giving reasons after basketball practice and during classes. Livestock judging is important in teaching students how to communicate preferences in animals, which allows them to know what kind of animals to choose for shows and for production.

“This is a very practical contest,” she said.

The lessons she’s learned in livestock judging have served her well on her family’s ranch, which includes a 500-head cow-calf herd, 200 sheep and 75 goats.

Though her basketball career is now over, Steeke’s career in agriculture is just beginning. She serves as her FFA chapter president and plans to run for state office. She also plans to attend the University of Minnesota-Crookston in the fall, majoring in animal nutrition.