For Brian and Melinda Craig’s family, excellence at the Texas 4-H Roundup has become a family affair.

Hailing from Mansfield, their daughter Rachel has been a state competitor for the past three years, but this year was different. This year, Rachel’s younger sister Lauren also earned a place at the annual contest that pits 4-H’ers from across the state against one another in literally dozens of competitions.

Together, the sisters racked up six individual awards in their contests, including two first-place finishes for Rachel and a second-place finish for Lauren in the fashion show.

This was the first year Lauren, who turned 14 this season, was eligible to compete in the senior division, placing in two events at state.

Lauren placed third in the food show’s fruits and vegetables competition, one of four in the food and nutrition contest.

“I did the contest because I just completed a wellness class and I learned that Americans don’t eat enough vegetables,” Lauren said, adding that the class taught ways to encourage the consumption of vegetables so as to get the necessary vitamins and minerals.

Taking what she had learned, she entered a ratatouille dish with eggplant, summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes and herbs.

Lauren also entered a dress she made by hand in the fashion show’s specialty construction competition, taking second.

The specialty category is for creations “that don’t fit in other categories,” Lauren said, adding that she made the dress for a role during the Gingerbread Trail, an annual event in Waxahachie.

Based on designs from 1883-1889, Lauren’s late-bustle time period evening dress is just one project she has made for activities she and her sister participate in, including the National Lewis and Clark Trail, Bethlehem Revisited and the Ellis County Cotton Festival.

Both are members of the Spring Lake 4-H Club. Lauren is in her seventh year and Rachel her ninth.

A rising high school senior, Rachel is the president of her 4-H club, is involved at her church and volunteers at the Waxahachie Senior Citizens Center, the Presbyterian Children’s Home and Meals-on-Wheels.

Rachel has competed at the state roundup three times, winning five different events in all.

She intends to attend the University of Texas at Arlington and major in Spanish, after which she will pursue her master’s degree in library science/information.

This year’s wins were in the fashion buying competition, where she took top honors in the dressy and wool divisions. Rachel said the competition is all about “learning good buying skills … and finding the best buy.”

The competition isn’t about finding the cheapest or most expensive clothing she said, it’s about finding “the best buy; something that will stay in style.”

In the health contest, she earned sixth place in the state with a speech designed “to get people up and moving,” promoting healthy living by emphasizing opportunities to incorporate exercise into everyday activities.

Rachel also took third in the fabric and fashion accessory design competition, for which she designed a pendant necklace with three sets of pendants in green and gold tones.

Rachel has competed in numerous past contests, winning the fashion show’s specialty and cotton construction divisions as well as the textile design competition. She’s also taken second in accessory design and fifth in the state food show.

Ellis County Extension agent Rita Hodges has nothing but praise for the girls, calling them “the very, very top” 4-H’ers she’s had.

“Usually a 4-H’er will go to state in one or two things, but these girls seem to excel in everything they compete in,” Hodges said. “I’ve never had 4-H’ers go to both the state fashion show and food show. That’s the most amazing thing, and it’s because they work hard.”

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