Murray State University places 1st in the Southern Region American Society for Horticultural Science in the Plant Judging Contest

By Alex Pologruto | Feb 25, 2022

Dr. Tony Brannon, Ben Rush, Savanah French, Allie Maternowski, Johanna Hooten, Dava Hayden

Pictured from left to right: Hutson School of Agriculture Dean Dr. Tony Brannon, students Ben Rush, Savanah French, Allie Maternowski, Johanna Hooten, and Murray State Horticulture Instructor and Club Advisor Dava Hayden

MURRAY, Ky. — Murray State University placed 1st overall again for the third time in a row at the Southern Region American Society for Horticultural Science (SRASHS) in the Plant Judging Contest. This year’s conference was held in New Orleans, Louisiana Feb. 11-13. There were 51 competitors from colleges and universities across the southern region including Middle Tennessee State, Texas A&M, Auburn, University of Arkansas, Texas A&M Commerce and Southern Illinois University.

The four-person team consisted of Allie Maternowski, senior horticulture major and team captain, Ben Rush, senior horticulture major, Johanna Hooten, junior horticulture major, and Savanah French, freshman agriculture business major. The team received multiple individual and team awards to place them at the top. The team competed in five categories including Greenhouse Floral Crop Identification, Woody Ornamental Crop Identification, Vegetable Crop Judging, Fruit Crop Judging and Outstanding Club. They placed first in all categories except one.

“Our goal was to get first place overall and carry on the winning legacy, to have fun and just do our very best,” said team captain Maternowski. Maternowski competed in the last SRASHS competition and helped prepare the other three new team members for their first regional competition. She received multiple individual awards including third place overall, first place in woody ornamental identification and vegetable crop judging.  As the Horticulture Club president, she prepared and along with the group collectively delivered a winning club presentation showcasing activities and accomplishments over the last 12 months. They received first place in the Outstanding Club category and were awarded $150 for their hard work and dedication to the University and community.

Freshman Savanah French won first place overall, first place in the Woody Ornamental Identification (a tie with teammate Maternowski), first place in greenhouse floral and foliage crop identification and second place in vegetable crop judging.

“We surprised many people four years ago when we took first place overall.  The next year more schools were prepared to win it all. Last year we were disappointed that the conference was canceled due to COVID. This year, the other schools brought their ‘A-teams’ and were hyped up to take first place away from the Murray State team.  However, what they didn’t know was that our students are the best, most dedicated, supportive group that works very hard in and outside of the classroom to gain an education, not just a degree,” said Dava Hayden, Murray State Horticulture Instructor and Club Advisor. “Our students run our greenhouses, they prune, trim and landscape the arboretum, they take amazing internships each summer and they support each other and the program like no other university. I am very proud of this group of individuals. Their future employers are going to be very lucky to have them.” 

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