NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - The Stephen F. Austin State University forestry student club took first place in the 56th annual Southern Forestry Conclave competition last weekend. It's a title the Sylvan's haven't been able to call their own since 2008. The club was able to win titles for both physical and technical events.
18 Stephen F. Austin forestry students competed against 13 others schools and more than 200 competitors in this year's southern conclave. The physical events were a walk in the park for the Sylvan's along with the academic challenges.
"This year I was really proud. We got to go to Auburn and represent the school, and I'm really proud that we won the competition my last year," Caleb Murray, SFASU senior, said.
Caleb Murray, Sylvan president, has participated in the conclave the past four years. He's competed against larger universities such as Auburn, Alabama A&M, Clemson, Louisiana Tech, Louisiana State, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Arkansas-Monticello, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia Tech, and as a senior Murray finally gets to show off the championship trophy.
The Diboll native wants to continue to keep the tradition of forestry alive.
"It's just kind of like a livelihood. This is how East Texas got to be the way it is. This is where we've made our mark as forestry and it's a passion really," Murray said.
It's also a passion for first time competitor Scott Wahlberg who took first place in the technical event dendrology where he identified tree species by name. His excitement for wildlife developed while growing up in Houston.
"All the places I would enjoy hiking and wandering around at as a kid are no longer there. They're now Walmart's and Sam's Clubs. You continue to see habitat fragmentation and destruction down there, so it made me want to pursue a field that was conservation oriented," Scott Wahlberg, SFASU senior, said.
Courtney Williams is one of the few young ladies who represented Stephen F. Austin at this year's competition.
"I was a girl who ran against all the guys and with women's cross cut it's a really big deal; it's a really big tradition. So, It was really important to keep the winning streak going," Courtney Williams, SFASU freshman, said.
The Sylvan team is honored to part of a more than 50 year old tradition. The Sylvan club was originally founded at SFA in 1946. Each year they compete in the conclave, which is hosted annually at a different University in the South since 1958. Next year they will compete at Virginia Tech, and Stephen F. Austin will host the 2017 Southern Forestry Conclave.