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HortPack Competes in the “Landscape Olympics”

2024 HortPack competition team

Over spring break the Horticultural Science Competition Team, known as the HortPack, went to Provo, Utah to participate in the National Collegiate Landscape Competition (NCLC) and take part in a three-day contest of various events that range from construction cost estimating, irrigation troubleshooting, backhoe operation, and plant identification. With 30 events in total, the 49 schools that attended were all vying for first place to show how well-versed their schools are in these vast spanning areas of the landscape world.

Daniel Wesserman installing lighting design
Daniel Wasserman competes in the landscape lighting event.

This huge annual event is affectionately called the “Landscape Olympics” by the students and their advisors because of the fantastic competitive spirit that students bring to the competition. There is a lot of pride these teams have in not only their schools but in their clubs as well. The school teams all create and showcase a team cheer and the teams are also judged separately on their overall team spirit. This year, the HortPack at North Carolina State University won the STIHL Team Spirit Award, among others. 

The team had twelve top-ten finishes in the competition, not counting first through third placings. The HortPack had a third-place finish in Hardscape Installation, with students Andrew Quate and Charlie McGhee participating. Then, Adam Miller took third in Business Management, and Ethan Everhart and Lauren Turner took third place in the Safety First event. Kennedy Vinson placed second in the Compact Track/Skid Steer Loader Operation competition and Grayson Black and Nicholas Taylor placed second in the Landscape Maintenance Operation event. Lastly, Thomas Morgan, won first place in the Woody Ornamental Plant Identification event. 

All of these efforts led to the HortPack placing 9th overall but the competition is far from the only reason the team spends months preparing through fundraisers, training, and studying. The students attending NCLC can make industry contacts at local and national levels from a range of companies that sponsor both the event and the teams. 

HortPack team members at the landscape installation event.
HortPack team members at the landscape installation event.

Just a few of the companies that make this possible are STIHL, John Deere, CAT, Davey, LandCare, Bartlett Tree Experts, SiteOne Landscape Supply and many others. Additionally,  there is a huge career fair at NCLC that connects students with these companies and allows them to better understand what jobs and opportunities may await them after graduation. 

At the local level, NC State’s HortPack could not have attended without the help and donations of many individual and corporate sponsors like Bland Landscaping, Greenscape, Greenview Partners, LandCare, Adcock’s Nursery, Ruppert Landscape, Myatt Landscaping & Construction, Plantworks Nursery, and Hoffman Nursery. Truly, it takes a village. 

While the competition offers a wealth of opportunities for the students, the team and advisors also plan out more than just event-focused activities. This year students traveled to sites around Colorado and Utah like the Denver Botanic Garden, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and Arches National Park.

HortPack team tour Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
HortPack team tour Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

HortPack is one of those clubs that reach students on multiple levels by allowing them to study specific specialties and then compete against fellow students from across the country. They get to travel and visit multiple sites around the competition’s host city and connect with men and women in areas of industry they may have little access to. 

Student Daniel Wasserman said, “The HortPack competition allowed me to see the mountains, but I enjoyed the camaraderie most. The care and compassion of people on the team was a highlight of the trip.”

Thomas Morgan, who took the only HortPack first place standing in the individual events said, “The trip gave us the chance to see beautiful places like Arches National Park. We were able to explore that part of the country and also interacting with so many people was great.”

HortPack is a great example of why NC State University clubs have such an incalculable value for the students across campus. Learning more about different areas of horticulture and the landscape industry in a fun way was a small piece of this trip and, just like in years past, the NCLC journey has offered the HortPack benefits and dividends from the personal to the professional. The HortPack is extremely grateful to the partners and donors who help fund and host this competition each year. 

While it takes a lot of time, money, planning, and effort, no one on this year’s team, or years past, has ever thought it was anything less than worth it. Students will take a rest through the summer but when the fall 2024 semester starts, the HortPack will begin preparing for the next great NCLC adventure and work to achieve more success as they go.

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