HHS grad earns national honors
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
He decided to forego football his senior year in high school and concentrate on FFA judging.
"I wasn't talented enough to get a scholarship in sports," said Garret Dietz, a 2008 graduate of Hays High School who also never dreamed of being an All-American.
"So I thought I'd put my efforts into something else where I might be able to get a scholarship," added Dietz, part of a standout livestock judging team at Hays High that finished third at nationals his senior year, when he also won the state poultry judging title.
Dietz received a college scholarship during his senior year for livestock judging at Hutchinson Community College.
He also earned All-American honors for meat judging at Kansas State University.
Dietz's class at Hays High celebrated its fifth-year anniversary at homecoming activities this past weekend, but he wasn't able to participate in any of them.
That's because he now is busy helping other students excel in meat judging as a primary coach for the Kansas State team. Dietz and his team are in Garden City this weekend preparing for competition this week in Pennsylvania.
After a successful career at Hutchinson, Dietz decided to continue his education at Kansas State, where he was recruited out of the Principals of Meat Evaluation class to join the judging team the second semester of his junior year.
It didn't bother Terry Houser, who oversees the meat judging team at K-State, that Dietz's expertise had been in livestock judging and not meat judging.
"We recruit kids who are smart and have good judgment and reasoning skills, and Garret had that," Houser said. "They have the whole judging perspective, and concepts are similar. Once they know how to judge something, they can judge about anything."
By the time Dietz graduated with his bachelor's degree from K-State in 2012, Dietz had gained valuable experience in several internships and was chosen for All-American honors.
To put that in perspective, only eight are chosen from around the country each year for All-American recognition, based on contest placings and grade-point average. Dietz placed in the top 10 in five of eight contests and had a GPA of 3.65.
Houser said he wasn't surprised at Dietz's success and convinced him to remain at Kansas State to work on his master's degree in meat science.
"Garret is an outstanding young man and had a lot of really good experience and works really hard, has done a really nice job for us," Houser said of Dietz. "That's mostly why we recruited him to graduate school. We try to find those outstanding students to help coach our team."
Dietz's paid internships took him to various parts of the country, where he worked in research and development for Hillshire Brands Co. in Illinois, Tyson Foods in Arkansas and Kraft Oscar Mayer in Wisconsin.
This past summer, Dietz traveled to Australia with a judging team he helped coach at the 24th annual Intercollegiate Meat Judging competition that featured 120 students from nine Australian universities and five international teams, including K-State representing the United States.
In the closest competition in the history of that event, K-State edged out the home Australia team by a single point.
Now, it's on to more contests this fall for Dietz, who will accompany his team to Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Texas and South Dakota.
Dietz, on track to finish his master's degree in May, admitted his schedule is a tight one, with being in charge of the day-to-day operations of the meats judging team while doing his own research.
"It's a lot of responsibility," said Dietz, whose goal is to work in research and development at a large meat company. "But it's opened a lot of doors for me."