Years of dedication to FFA show projects have paid off in a huge way this year for Jacksonville High School senior Brooklyn Hooker: Diamond, her Red Angus heifer, was named Reserve Grand Champion Senior Heifer at the 2019 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
“I tried not to get too excited because every judge will pull the winners differently, but once I finally realized I had won my class, it was very exciting, because all the work I had put in with even my previous heifers had finally paid off,” Hooker said of Diamond's wins of First in Class and Reserve Grand Champion on March 9. “The second time the judge picked me, I really couldn’t believe it because I had never imagined winning my class, much less winning my division.”
According to Rachel Robinson, JHS Ag teacher and FFA sponsor, to her knowledge, “Brooklyn is the first I know to place this well in anything in about 20 years, so it's a big deal. We're proud of her and the work she's put in.”
An FFA member throughout her four years of high school, Hooker has competed in the Cherokee County Junior Livestock show an equal number of years, competing in different categories.
“I have shown a meat pen rabbit for three years and a heifer project for all four years,” including Miniature Herefords, she said.
“My freshman year I had Flower; my sophomore year I had Mulberry and Flower; my junior year I had Mulberry, Diamond and Maiden; and my senior year, I will have Diamond and Maiden,” Hooker said, noting that Maiden and Flower are miniatures, while Mulberry and Diamond are Red Angus heifers. “I’ve won reserve champion with both Flower and Maiden.”
Additionally, she has competed at the Houston Livestock Show for two years previous to this year's event.
“Everyone’s goal is to be Grand Champion, but my personal goal was to get third place or better in my class, and I definitely surpassed that goal,” Hooker said.
Award-winning Diamond turns two on March 18, and had delivered a calf – Hank, who made his appearance at the Houston show at a mere nine days old – earlier in the month.
“I've had her since she was about seven months, and have shown her about a year and a half,” Hooker said.
Robinson explained that heifers can be a two-year project, and in that final year, “you want them to be heavy bred, or in production. (Diamond) was heavy bred in Fort Worth, and had her calf the week before Houston. He gets to tag along, basically, but he's also an example of what a heifer can produce.”
Throughout the years, Hooker has kept things simple when preparing a project: “The most special preparation I do before I walk in the ring is pray. I believe that I wouldn’t be where I am without God on my team,” she said.
Preparation also means spending “as much time with your project as you can and making that animal your best friend,” she said.
“Always push yourself to be better, and take pride in your project – there is no greater joy than knowing that all the hard work you put in has finally paid off,” she said. “Never settle.”
As the teen prepares for her upcoming graduation in May, she said that “hands down, the best part of FFA has been the relationships I've made.”
“I’m so thankful for all the friendships I have made, and I know they are true friends. That even after we graduate and go our separate ways, we will all still have each others' backs,” Hooker said. “The thing I will miss most are the late nights with my friends at stock shows and singing at the top of our lungs, off-key, in the Ag truck.”
Visit Brooklyn Hooker, Diamond and Hank during the Cherokee County Junior Livestock Show, planned March 27-30 at the county exposition center, 611 SE Loop 456.