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Tuesday February 9th, 2016 7:42PM

NGTC students have strong showing in 38th Annual Planet competition

By Ken Stanford Reporter
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CLARKESVILLE - Students in North Georgia Technical College's Turf and Golf Course Management and Horticulture programs weathered the freezing temperatures and snow of Colorado to compete in the 38th Annual PLANET Student Career Days event held at Colorado State University. Sixteen students participated in all 28 of the events that highlight the diversity in the "green" industry.

The NGTC team competed against 743 students and 62 schools from two-year and four-year colleges and major universities, garnering seven top ten finishes and placing the school 19th in the nation. In all, 13 of the 16 participating students placed in the top 20 in their event. Christian Delugach of Habersham who competed in Hardscape Installation, Landscape Maintenance Operations, Landscape Plant Installation, Truck & Trailer Operation, and Turf & Weed Identification, was ranked 30th overall out of all individuals competing at this year's event.

Jessica Smith of Mt. Airy competed in three events and placed in the top ten in all three: third in Interior Plant Identification, third in Personnel Management with teammate Tracy Pardue of Cleveland, and thirteenth in Plant Problem Diagnosis. Tommy Etheridge of Lavonia also placed well in multiple events including eighth in Sales Presentation and 18th in Small Engine Repair; he also competed in Construction Cost Estimating. John Mather of Clarkesville returned to the Planet competition for the third year in a row and placed eighth in Woody Ornamental Plant Identification as well as eighth in Annual and Perennial Identification. He also placed 20th with teammate Nathan Thieme in Irrigation Troubleshooting. Ethan Thomas of Eastanollee placed ninth in Irrigation Design and also competed in Wood Construction.

"Five years ago when we started participating in PLANET, no one knew who we were," said Horticulture Instructor Craig Thurmond. "Now, we are a team to be reckoned with. Our students reminded us all that even though we are a small school, we are capable of competing and holding our own against the biggest and the best programs in the country."

Tracy Pardue also competed in Business Management and Plant Problem Diagnosis while Nathan Thieme also competed in Irrigation Assembly. Also placing well in their competitions were Shannon Garrett of Dahlonega in Exterior Landscape Design, Interior Landscape Design, and Tractor Loader Backhoe Operation; Nick Reagin-Coppola of Smyrna in 3D Exterior Design and Computer Aided Landscape Design; Tyler Spence of Toccoa in Irrigation Assembly, Landscape Plant Installation, and Wood Construction; Johnny Payne of Toccoa in Arboriculture Techniques, Hardscape Installation, and Landscape Plant Installation; Scarlett Kilby of Rabun Gap in Annual & Perennial Identification, Landscape Maintenance Operations, and Woody Ornamental Plant Identification; Jackson Fischer of Commerce in Maintenance Cost Estimating and Compact Track Loader Operation; Katelynn Waddell of Toccoa in Arboriculture Techniques and Business Management; Case Dodson of Commerce in Compact Excavator Operation, Truck & Trailer Operation, and Maintenance Cost Estimating; and Josh Bowling of Lithia Springs in Construction Cost Estimating, Leadership Skills and Small Engine Repair.

"I am extremely proud of our students that took time out of their busy lives and daily schedules to prepare for and attend this competition," said Thurmond. "They carried themselves as true professionals in the industry and competed to the best of their abilities."

Student Career Days is an annual three-day competitive event among students enrolled in horticulture programs from colleges and universities across the country and internationally. The 2014 event was sponsored by the Professional Landcare Network, www.landcarenetwork.org.
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