postheadericon Teen finds a Royal passion

KANSAN CLAY ECKERT UTILIZES CALF SCRAMBLE WIN TO PUSH FORWARD IN LIVESTOCK SHOWING

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Clay Eckert appears to be the typical freshman at Hutchinson (Kan.) High School.

He is active, possibly more than many 15-year-olds. Instead of spending his off time playing video games, the young man has opted for a little more work showing livestock. It’s paid off.

Clay Eckert

Clay Eckert

In the fall of 2013, Clay was part of the American Royal Calf Scramble, where students ages 10-14 have to opportunity to catch and halter a young heifer during the Royal’s ProRodeo. He was one of the winners, earning a $1,250 voucher to purchase a heifer of his choosing in order to start a beef operation.

“I’ve learned so much, from taking care of things to how to be responsible,” said Clay, who also competes in football, basketball and track for the Salthawks. “I’m so involved with things I can’t get into trouble.”

But he isn’t a farm kid who was raised around agriculture. He’s chosen to follow a family tradition, even though it means traveling 30 minutes three to four days a week to neighboring McPherson County to the Goering Farm, where Greg, Tammy, Taylor and Trenton Goering have been instrumental in Clay’s passion for raising livestock. Taylor Goering has shown at the American Royal and has served as Clay’s mentor.

“Taylor and her family have helped me so much with everything,” Clay said. “I was, and still am very lucky to get hooked up with them.”

So did that American Royal voucher. Clay raised his heifer, then showed her during the 2014 American Royal Calf Scramble Show. The animal was named the supreme heifer, and Clay was the champion senior showman among his Calf Scramble peers.

“About two weeks ago, which is the whole purpose of the program, my heifer had her first calf, so it’s going back into the herd,” he said.

The young man began the lifestyle by following in the footsteps of his father, Bret Eckert, a longtime track coach at Hutch High who still teaches and is an assistant coach for the football program.

“I started because my dad showed sheep,” Clay said. “I won sheep showmanship, and I got to be in the round-robin, so I got to work with cows.”

The progression has been thorough and award-winning. Not many can claim to such a prestigious title from the American Royal, one of the largest and best known livestock shows in the United States.

But that, in essence, is what the Royal is about. Over the course of each year, the association provides more than $1.4 million in support of youth and agriculture. By being involved in the Calf Scramble, Clay has taken advantage of the opportunities.

“My experience with the American Royal has helped me in many ways,” he said. “It’s helped me get to know so many great people, and I’m learning new things every day.

“You have to work for what you get. It’s hard to do school and sports and showing, but it’s what I choose to do so I try to make it work.”

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