It took her entire high school career, but University of Findlay freshman and Marysville High School graduate Elizabeth Hayes was named national champion in equine entrepreneurship at the 85th National FFA (Future Farmers of America) convention last month.
She was presented the award on Oct. 26 in Indianapolis in front of 75,000 people.
Hayes' high school FFA adviser Shari Anderson was with her all the way.
"She's been working on this for four and a half years," Anderson said. "Basically, there's not a horse project in the country that is better than hers.
"I am extremely proud. I had the opportunity to be on stage with her when they announced the finalists," she added. "It's such a cool feeling to be a part of it -- to watch someone's dream and goal come alive before your eyes."
Hayes owns and runs her own horse-training business. She had 11 clients, four horses in training and a two-year-old gelding she trained to sell.
Hayes is the first national proficiency winner from the Marysville FFA in the chapter's history, according to Anderson.
"She was up against tough competition, so it makes it even sweeter. It was pretty exciting, watching her," Anderson said.
Ohio boasts four national proficiency winners, who were named at the national FFA convention this year. Two of those four were from Union County.
Jakob Wilson, a 2012 graduate of Fairbanks High School, was named national champion in the area of diversified crop production placement. He is the second National winner from Fairbanks.
Hayes is not the only success story to come out of the convention for Marysville. The Marysville FFA chapter was named a national runner-up in the Model of Excellence competition.
The Model of Excellence division recognizes the best 10 chapters among nearly 7,500 chapters nationwide.
Marysville advanced to the national level and was chosen as a finalist in the contest after being named the top chapter in Ohio in the area of student development.
Hayes was joined by Ryan Schwyn and Jenna Lee for a presentation and an interview about the chapter's activities and the level of involvement and leadership of the students.
The Marysville High School FFA also produced three American degree recipients this year: Graduates Carol Keck, Ashley Mathys and Denver Thomas, all from the Raymond area, earned the highest degree possible for members of the FFA. Like Hayes, they began working toward this degree their freshman year in high school and finally attained it five years later.
"Less than 2 percent of all FFA members achieve this degree," Anderson said. "To have three is very good. It's a huge accomplishment."