Credit: Rachael Stucke | Courtesy

A team of Cal Poly animal science majors placed first in the annual Animal Science Western Section Academic Quadrathlon held April 1-2 in San Luis Obispo. The Cal Poly team hosted five other schools –– Fresno State, Colorado State, Oregon State, Chico State and New Mexico State –– and competed against them in four different competitions: a laboratory practicum, written exam, oral presentation and a quiz bowl. 

Each school is allowed four participants. The Cal Poly team included all seniors: Rachael Stucke, Genna Vieira, Sophia Juarez and Ashley Taraglia. They were led by mentor and animal science professor Zach McFarlane. 

For animal science senior Stucke, this competition was a “really nice capstone” of the animal science knowledge she has gained at Cal Poly. 

“It covered everything we could have ever learned in all of our classes, and just to see how far our knowledge has come along as seniors was really fulfilling,” Stucke said.

This event is run by the American Society of Animal Science, whose mission is to apply scientific knowledge to properly care for animals, as well as “enhancing animal and human health well-being.” 

This was the first in-person competition since COVID-19 and only the second regional competition Cal Poly has qualified for in 20 years. 

All of the competitions are team-oriented, multi-faceted and test the students’ knowledge of animal science. The competitions were held in multiple locations in the animal unit on campus. 

Stucke says that their team’s success is related to the Cal Poly curriculum, as many of the classes allow students to work hands-on with animals. 

Some examples of the types of hands-on competitions during the quadrathlon were walking through how someone would milk a cow, properly diagnosing an animal’s heart rate and wrapping a horse’s hoof. These real-life competitions will prepare students for the animal science field, in addition to being good resume builders and providing networking opportunities. 

The competitions also help students develop skills that they will use in their everyday jobs in the animal science field. 

“We had to communicate and decide how we wanted to take on the different sections at each lab station, while also trying to get everything done in under 15 minutes,” Vieira said. “These communication skills are necessary to have as an animal scientist because we are working at the pace of the animal, not our own, so we need to be efficient and direct when treating animals.”

Competition aside, the weekend was also a way for students to get to know animal science students from other schools. The host team choosing a fun event for the participants is an academic quadrathlon tradition and is also a way for students to connect before they go into competition. This year, the Cal Poly team chose to go to Hearst Ranch in San Simeon with all the competition participants.

Since the Cal Poly team won the Western Regional Academic Quadrathlon, they will go on to Oklahoma City, Ok. to compete in the national competition from June 26-30.

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