WAXAHACHIE — Months of preparation, practice and grooming of show animals came to a conclusion Friday with the final drives of the 28th annual Ellis County Youth Expo as the largest of the livestock took center stage.

Some contestants were seen grooming their steers and heifers as they began entering the arena in hopes of being the judge’s choice.

This year’s heifer and market steer judge was Ryan Cunnings. Hailing from South Texas, Cummins has judged a variety of market and breeding cattle, sheep, swine and goat shows in Texas, Oklahoma, New York, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Pennsylvania, California, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Arkansas.

“I believe showmanship and experience is crucial to being successful in the show ring and that it is a continual learning process,” Cummins said.

Describing the quality of this years showman, Cummins added “ I’m really impressed with the quality of the of the kids and livestock. These kids are top-notch exhibitors. I’ve judged shows nationwide and met many top showmen. I’d put these kids up with any of the national level showmen."

The first drive consisted of 35 heifer entries listed between Longhorn, American, British and European classes.

In the final championship drive, Cummings went to Anna Arnold of Ellis County 4-H to award the Grand Champion ribbon.

“I didn’t have any premonition that I would come out of the arena with the grand champion," Arnold said. "Previously being grand champion twice and reserve three times with steers. This is my first grand champion with a heifer. Getting this steer ready for show and grand champion show quality took a lot of work. I can’t say any particular thing but working with them every day and hoping I get to the top."

Arnold added that she loves "everything about showing especially being around the cows."

Arnold is a junior at Ennis High School and is the daughter of Mark and Karen Arnold of Ennis.

Winning the buckle in the reserve champion heifer drive was Brayden DeBorde — representing Ellis County 4-H. DeBorde said he planned his success in the arena with the breeding of his heifer.

"I’ve been showing cattle since I was able to and that makes it since the third grade,” DeBorde said. “I love the intensity of the show. I have a good crew that helps me out with getting the calves ready. It’s also the adrenaline of the show that gets me here.”

DeBorde also explained that he and his family are committed to cow shows.

"We don’t take vacations. We go the cow shows all over the state. At the shows, I get to see friends that I have not seen in a year and make new ones.” DeBorde said, “It’s really great being the grand reserve Heifer. She came out of my pasture. I raised her too. My dad and I planned the breeding with a heifer with a championship bloodline to a really good sire. I’ve worked with her sire she was a small calf."

DeBorde also went on to win senior showman and reserve county breed with his reserve champion heifer.

In the steer run, 48 entries were vying for the top awards.

In the final drives, Cameron Luedtke took home the Grand Champion belt buckle and banner. Anna Arnold took home her second banner by winning grand reserve honors.

"Amazing, this has been a dream forever,” said Cameron Luedtke of winning the grand championship award.

Changing from pigs to steers four years ago, Luedtke “This was the best thing I ever did,” said Luedtke, a freshman at Midlothian High School and a member of Midlothian FFA.

"Getting ready for the show, I like just working with them. You get them for a year; they become your buddy. You find one that you kind of like and they become your friend.” Luedtke said. “Becoming a part of the show is the best thing I’ve ever done. You meet new friends all across the state. It’s a one of a kind experience."

Luedtke is the son of George and Tricia Luedtke.

Returning to the show ring this time with a steer, Arnold again worked her way to having one of the top steers taking home the grand reserve banner.

“I'm just as excited and so happy to receive the grand reserve prize, Being selected second in two runs, I was quite surprised when the judge pointed to my calf to be a grand and reserve,” Arnold said.

In the other showmanship competitions, the Junior Heifer belt buckle went to Katelyn Angle, while senior showman went to Nathan Derdon the top county breed went to Eric Smith, with Brayden DeBorde winning the reserve county breed award.