Madera Unified student vet science team wins national championship

MADERA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Students on Madera Unified's high school veterinary science team are national champions. The group recently took home the gold at the national FFA convention.

This is the very first time the Madera FFA team has won a national championship. They've won the state title in the past, and even qualified for nationals but never taken the top spot.

Staff say more than the win, they're proud of all the hard work behind it.

Competitions over the past year have been anything but normal for the Madera FFA Student Vet Science Team.

"We were all on Zoom practicing, they were showing me videos of them doing their practices," explained Animal Sciences Teacher Kristin Sheehan. "We were competing virtually."

With both virtual and in-person practices and competitions, they've risen to one challenge after the next.

"That alone shows the tremendous work ethic they have because everything they were doing, they had to do on their own at home," added Sheehan.

When the team qualified for the national championship in Indianapolis, they knew they had their work cut out for them.

"It can be days when we're just looking at picture after pictures of dogs or horse breeds," said FFA National Champion Kassandra Hernandez. "I spent a lot of time here after school. Three hours of practice twice a week, so I've gotten really close to my team."

The all-girl team spent months practicing and raising money for the nationwide competition and included students Elena Robles, Kassandra Hernandez, Mercedes Gonzalez and Marylyn Bautista.

"We got to talk to a lot of different teams from all over the country," said Hernandez. "It was just a unique experience, being able to meet people that were there for the same reason."

It paid off. The girls took home first place out of roughly 40 teams nationwide.

"I think me and Cassandra cried," said fellow National FFA National Champion Marilyn Bautista. "I think we cried."

"I'm making my teachers proud, I'm making my family proud, I'm making the community proud," added FFA National Champion Mercedes Gonzalez. "It's rewarding."

The Madera FFA vet science team prepares students for a career in the field.

"I want them to leave here with skills they can use in the future to pursue any career with vet medicine, animal health," added Sheehan.

This team is also the first all-female ethic team to ever win a national championship in history of FFA. The motivated students all say they hope to pursue a career in animal sciences.
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