Ferndale High School sophomore Audrey Miller was elated when her Future Farmers of America, or FFA, team won the state veterinary science competition. The team’s prize? Representing Washington at the National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis.
“That was probably the most exciting thing that ever happened to me,” said Miller, 15. “I’m not an emotional person, but that’s the one time I broke down and cried.”
Zach Bytnar -- a senior who’s been on the FHS vet science team since ninth grade – said he was shocked to reach nationals for the first time. It felt like the culmination of all his hard work during the past few years, he said.
“It’s like the end goal was finally reached,” said Bytnar, 17.
FHS’ vet science team will compete in Indianapolis from Oct. 27-30. At the convention, they’ll participate in multiple activities, such as working together to solve hypothetical problems, or demonstrating their knowledge of various veterinary skills, such as putting a bandage on a wooden or stuffed animal.
The squad will be led by Tony Torretta, an agriculture science and vet science teacher at FHS, and the school’s FFA advisor. In the mid 2010s, he brought four Golden Eagles vet science teams to the convention, with one group earning third place out of 50 teams, he said. It’s always a true honor for his students to represent Washington on the national stage, Torretta said.
“We are running with the big dogs of the United States,” he said.
Vet science can be a gateway to numerous careers in the medical field, and not just working with animals, Torretta said.
“I’ve had students in nursing programs, who said the (medical procedure) steps for nursing science were the same,” he said. “The knowledge and medical terminology transferred.”
Bytnar said he doesn’t plan on becoming a veterinarian, but the FFA vet science program has piqued his interest in the medical field. Specifically, he’s considering studying anesthesiology after high school.
Miller, on the other hand, has always been interested in veterinary science. Growing up on a ranch north of Ferndale, she was intrigued by the large animal veterinarians who worked with her family’s cattle.
“Whenever we had a vet come out and check out our cows, it was probably the most amazing experience I ever got to go through, so I wanted to try that sort of thing.”
Despite having to do some training remotely due to COVID-19, the FHS vet science team worked hard to memorize animal knowledge and learn veterinary techniques, Torretta said. The students even met on weekend mornings to get coffee and practice, he said.
Regardless of how the FFA team may perform at the convention, Torretta said he’s proud of his students.
“The dedication and the hard work they’ve put in, they really earned (nationals),” he said. “I always ask them, ‘How did you do?’ And the only answer I want from them is, ‘The best that I could.’