NOVEMBER 1, 2015 - COVINGTON
When talking to Covington High School senior Zach Hasting about the 1951 CASE Model DC4 tractor he completely restored, you get a sense of the pride and passion he put into his project. His eyes light up and the words flow out of his mouth in rapid fashion as he attempts to explain the intricate details of his pride and joy.
As Hastings explains, he did his research and took his time in ensuring as much authenticity as possible in restoring and old, broken down piece of farm equipment into a breathtakingly beautiful treasure from the past. He didn't take any shortcuts. He made the restoration right, down to the finest detail.
As he talks, you feel mesmerized, impressed and in awe of what this teenager from the small town of Covington, Ohio was able to accomplish in his restoration project, using his mind as an instruction guide and his two hands as his primary tools. You suddenly feel an emotional attachment to this project and the aspirations this young man has for his future.
Mesmerized, impressed and in awe must have been how the judges felt at the National Future Farmers Of America Convention in Louisville, Kentucky as Hastings made his presentation for Agricultural Mechanics Repair and Maintenance Entrepreneurship over the weekend - a presentation that ultimately led to Hastings being named the 2015 National Champion.
"It's a big honor," said Hastings with a shy grin on his face. "It was a big honor to represent Covington High School because myself, Jese Shell and some of our friends helped get FFA started up again. I was fortunate to be able to win at Nationals, but it wouldn't have been possible without all of the other kids involved in FFA."
The fact that Hastings even made it to the national level is an accomplishment in itself. He had to submit an application at the district level and then win at the state level for his application to even be reviewed at the national level.
"Once my application was reviewed at districts, I went to state for an interview," Hasting explained. "The highest score from the interview and the application won state and I was the one who won. That meant my application was forwarded to the national level."
Once at the national level, the qualifying applications are graded for point value and rated as Gold, Silver and Bronze. Hasting's application was one of the few who received a Gold rating.
"All of the Gold rated applications go for addition review and the top four become National Finalists," said Hasting. "I was kind of shocked when I found out I was a National Finalist."
Being chosen a National Finalist only added to the pressure as the top four were interviewed together, photographed individually and with sponsors, and then interviewed individually for fifteen minutes.
"In the first interview the four finalists were interviewed together and we had a two-minute introduction where we introduced ourselves, talked about our project and our future plans," explained Hasting. "I could tell some of the other kids weren't as prepared, so that gave me some confidence."
That confidence carried over to the fifteen-minute interview where eight judges were on hand to drill Hasting in every extensive detail. The pressure would understandable crumble most teenagers, but Hasting kept his composure.
"I really wasn't nervous at all," he said of his final interview. "I had prepared so well for this. I've made presentations on this project so many times that I knew it inside and out. It really wasn't that big of a deal to do it again."
Hasting's presentation was magical as it resulted into a National Championship in the category of Agricultural Mechanics Repair and Maintenance Entrepreneurship.
"It was such a neat experience to be there in front of sixty-two-thousand people," he said. "It was broadcast on live television and to be up there representing Covington and our FFA program was awesome. It's really all about our FFA program at Covington."
Being a National Champion will likely open doors for this talented kid from Covington, something Hasting is also grateful for.
"This is what I want to do with my life," Hasting said of what FFA has offered him. "I want to go to school for Agricultural Education and ultimately teach in the mechanical field. I'd like to have an impact on other kids who have the same passion I have. If this (winning a National Championship) can help make that happen, than that's even better."
Zach Hasting has a talent and a passion, which was able to blossom through the FFA program - a program that didn't exist at Covington for several years until Hasting, Jese Shell and some friends pushed to restore the tradition from the past.
Much like he restored his 1951 CASE Model DC4, the primary focus of a project that won a National Championship.