- February 15, 2018
West Orange High School senior Payton Moore is having a great year. She is vice president of the National Honor Society, plays violin in the school orchestra and is a member of the National Beta Club. She even owns her own show lamb named Hazel.
But her involvement in the school’s FFA program earned her a place in history when she placed fourth in the National FFA Organization’s 2021 Veterinary Science Career Development Event finals.
“The last state competition we won was in 1995,” West Orange High agriscience teacher Kristy Lightbody said of the Warrior FFA team victory in last spring’s Florida FFA State Championship.
Moore, along with teammates Cate Solomon, Joslyn Hui and Caden Lourdel, earned first place for their knowledge of veterinary science and disciplines.
But something even bigger was in store as the Warriors earned the right to qualify for the national championship, held during the National FFA Convention in October.
“We had to take a written exam that was based on five textbooks they provided,” Moore said of the state-level requirements. “There was a test on (medical) applications which was, basically, calculating dosages for different medications. … There was identification of (more than) 90 different veterinary tools. … We had to identify parasites and their life cycles. … And then there was (animal) breed identification.”
If the competition sounds daunting, imagine having to prepare on your own.
“We study general animal science, but not everything that an actual veterinarian would do,” Lightbody said of West Orange’s agriscience curriculum.
Earning the range of experience necessary for state and national competitions is a trial and a labor of love.
Moore and her teammates studied everything from identifying different breeds of livestock to properly calculating medication dosages. Moore even received a book on parasites as a Christmas gift from her grandparents.
“We taught each other,” she said of the team’s effort to prepare. “We had to go to different schools to find different textbooks; we made flashcards; I watched YouTube videos of people doing the procedures, and then I did them on my own.”
Despite their effort, the Warriors did not place high enough to move on to the national competition in Indianapolis. But West Orange still would be represented.
“Our team didn’t advance but (the judges) announced four individuals (from the team competition) who placed high enough to move on,” said Lightbody. Moore’s individual score was high enough for her to be included in that group.
She was one of 127 individual competitors expected to demonstrate clinical procedures and proper animal handling and restraint. This also required several more hours of self-teaching and improvising, such as practicing horse haltering with a stuffed toy.
“I hadn’t ever seen a horse haltered before,” Moore said. “I had only seen it done in a video. So it was just the fear of the unknown, but then being able to overcome it.”
She didn’t have her usual teammates for support, but her father, Gregory, and Lightbody were with her in Indianapolis. And they felt the pressure as much as she did — especially when the top-10 finalists were announced.
“They’re like, ‘We’re going to call all the names, and if you don’t hear your name, you’re in the top 10,’” Lightbody said. “My heart rate got up to 172.”
Moore’s name eventually would be heard during the awards presentation, when the 10 winners were announced in descending order.
“It’s amazing, honestly, because it finally puts our school on the board … and now the nation notices,” Lightbody said. “It’s not just winning the award. It’s more about putting our name out there and saying, ‘You know what? We can do this, too.’”
According to FFA rules, once a team wins a state championship, that team and its individual members no longer can compete. But that won’t stop Moore from preparing her peers to follow in her footsteps.
“Payton can come in for this year’s team and help coach them,” Lightbody said. “It will be a completely new team that has either competed in the past and not won, or that has never competed before.”
Moore plans to show Hazel at the Florida State Fair. She is considering applying to the University of Florida and majoring in biomedical engineering. Despite her place in history, she remains grounded. The honors she earned came with a simple lesson.
“The day before the competition, my dad and I just scooted around Indianapolis on scooters,” she said. “I realized that … I studied, I prepared, but I’ve got to enjoy it.”