For any NCAA fan, March is bracket season, but green madness overtook North Carolina State’s campus last week for the National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC). Over 500 attendees from 40 universities and colleges faced off in 31 landscape and horticulture competitions. When the soil settled, NC State’s HortPack claimed third place overall in what’s called the Olympics of the green industry.
NCLC is a multi-day student competition and networking event for two and four-year college and university teams from across the country. The National Association of Landscape Professionals manages the event. Students compete individually or as teams in numerous hands-on categories like exterior landscape design, plant identification, robotics and technology in landscape design and maintenance, irrigation design, and more.
Home Turf Hospitality
NC State’s HortPack team is regularly a top-10 finisher, but it enjoyed this year’s home turf advantage. NC State last hosted the NCLC event in 2015 at the NC Fairgrounds and Arboretum. Lee Ivy, Director of NC State’s Agricultural Institute co-leads the HortPack team with Lis Meyer and Emily Erickson.
“We worked hard so that the team could experience the event as if they were traveling to another location,” Ivy said. “It was fantastic to see them build camaraderie and step up to the competition challenges, especially at home.”
While the HortPack finished third overall, several competition wins bolstered the team’s composite score, including:
- Landscape Maintenance Operations (Mike McCarthy, Dillon Wise)
- Truck and Trailer Operation (Mason Hills, Mason Davis)
- Construction Cost Estimating (Parker Hendrix)
- Social media spirit (Hannah Ledford)
“The Landscape Maintenance Operations competition was an exciting opportunity to demonstrate our safety knowledge and hands-on skills navigating two zero-turn lawnmowers through a tight obstacle course,” said HortPack student Dillon Wise. “We put in a lot of hours studying and practicing because my teammate Mike McCarthy’s score and mine both counted for the team. We were so surprised and excited to hear that we won first place. It felt great to know that our scores helped the HortPack team finish in third — higher than we’ve placed in several years.”
Real-World Skills Training & Testing
On Wednesday students had the opportunity to hone their techniques and exercise some final practice at industry-led workshops for many of the competition events. Travis Black of Bartlett Tree Experts organized Wednesday’s arboriculture training at Pullen Park.
“Being a mentor for the HortPack team and the NCLC event gives us the privilege of coaching our future industry professionals. Bartlett Tree Experts enjoys partnering with college horticulture programs to show students just one of many green career paths. These hands-on experiences develop students’ confidence and skills in preparation for a successful career.”
The Green Games Begin
The festivities officially launched Thursday morning in NC State’s Talley Student Center with an energetic welcome ceremony and team roll call. Each attending college or university piped in with their unique team cheer vying for the coveted spirit award.
Participants spent the better part of Thursday rubbing shoulders with recruiters from over 100 top green industry employers including Stihl, John Deere, Caterpillar, Davey, Ferris, Gravely, and Husqvarna. This wasn’t just a meet and greet. Students were toting resumes and scheduling on-site interviews. Second to the thrill of competition, networking is a central NCLC theme.
“We are thankful to have industry partners who locally mentor students for competition and financially support the NCLC and our HortPack team,” Ivy said. “Many of our students received career opportunities this week. As an educator, it is rewarding to watch our students realize their value and potential.”
Competitions stretched across NC State’s campus from climbing the stately oaks in the Court of the Carolinas to an irrigation jigsaw puzzle across Miller Field. The week culminated in Friday’s raucous Plant Installation team event where competitors transformed a university field by installing sod, plants, and mulch amidst the fervent cheers of their onlooking teammates.
“I was super excited to work with my teammates in competing in Plant Installation. It’s one of the most favored events of the competition,” said HortPack student Lizzie Foushee. “Even with all the stress, I had so much fun, and the NC State HortPack team was full of amazing team spirit, constantly cheering us on and motivating us to push through. When the event was over, I was relieved but ready to compete next year at Mississippi State!”
The event closed Saturday morning as NALP President Britt Wood presented the NCLC trophy to winner Brigham Young University-Provo. The NCLC’s 2023 competition will be held at Mississippi State University from March 15-18.
If you are looking for an academic path that leads to a career of impact, consider crop and soil sciences or horticulture sciences. Our students learn from expert professors and experience hands-on adventures every day.
Connecting students with green careers is just part of how we are growing the future.