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GRAHAM, N.C. (WGHP) — In her seven years as a teacher and FFA advisor at Southern Alamance High School, Tasha Dawson has watched her FFA competition teams grow and overcome challenges.

But none quite as well as this year’s North Carolina State Championship Veterinary Science team.

Not only did they have to deal with the reality of COVID-19 impacting their study schedules: there’s also a big construction project happening on the school grounds which means the facilities they typically would use weren’t available to them.

So, she says they had to start preparing early and use every minute they could find.

“It’s a lot of time dedication and for them to be really rigorous in their study habits, not only on campus but outside of school as well,” says Dawson. “They’re here oftentimes before me studying from 7:30 to 8:30 every morning during our homeroom sessions or a success academy, we are able to utilize that independent study time with our students. That’s about 30 minutes every day. They’re in here working as a group. They’re oftentimes here where they practice through lunch and after school and they meet outside of class as well to practice.”

This competition covers a lot of areas, from breed identification to parasites to medical procedures and tools. It definitely takes teamwork.

“What we normally do is we find what each individual team member’s strength is. And we have been used that strength to strengthen the others on the team. So they kind of find what they’re very passionate about,” Dawson says.

One student works as a coach, helping the others learn the information. This year it was senior Jahbez Roach. He says the work made him realize he wants to be a vet. “Surprisingly, I used to be pretty scared of animals, but working with the animals and learning about the different things, it really did help and got me more comfortable with it,” he said.

Team members agree it was a lot of work.

“The math was probably the hardest thing for me. And then you have to learn all of the breeds and all of the tools. You just have to learn all of it,” said sophomore Addison Holliday.

Allee Coble agreed. “It definitely took a lot of studying out of school. I definitely had to work a little harder than I thought I was to get where I was.”

But they say it was worth it.

Sophomore Nick Rymal said he learned a lot.

They will now compete for the National Vet Science title in October of next year.