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NMSU's Floral Designers Finish with a Flourish at National Contest

LAS CRUCES - The talents of New Mexico State University's floral designers were in full bloom as they arranged their way to three firsts and a second place finish at the National Intercollegiate Floral Crop Quality Evaluation and Design Competition in Las Cruces.

NMSU's floral design team members show off their prize-winning creations at the awards banquet for the National Intercollegiate Floral Crop Quality Evaluation and Design Competition on Friday. From left are Eva Winans, who placed second in the professional tablescape contest; Kathy Burcham, first in amateur asymmetrical design; coach Sabine Whitley; Amy Newton, first in amateur water vase centerpiece; and Bryna Wilson, first in professional European hand-tied bouquet. Eleven universities competed at the NMSU-hosted event April 2-4 in Las Cruces. (04/05/2003) (NMSU Agricultural Communications Photo by J. Victor Espinoza)

It was NMSU's best finish since resuming national judging and design competition in 1997, said Geno Picchioni, the horticulture faculty member overseeing the event.

"We have always had some design students place nationally, but this just seemed to be our year," he said. "We were elated to see how competitive we were nationally."

In Friday's design competition, contestants from 11 universities had one hour to complete and price their designs made from a preselected assortment of flowers, a scenario the team had practiced for weeks, including several times during spring break.

"I would have to attribute our design team's success to our coach," said a beaming Amy Newton, a horticulture major from Roswell who created the winning floral design in the amateur water vase centerpiece contest. "She taught us some really new and interesting design techniques and worked with us a lot."

Coach and event coordinator Sabine Whitley credited the students' dedication. "All of that work paid off for them," she said. "I am absolutely thrilled." To pull off a virtual sweep of all four design events, NMSU contestants had to earn the highest total scores from six floral industry judges who independently rated the designs, she said.

Kathy Burcham, a horticulture major from Cuauhtemoc, Mexico, won the amateur competition in one-sided, asymmetrical design.

Bryna Wilson, a graduating horticulture major, gained experience for a planned career as a floral designer for special events such as elaborate weddings. She won the professional level contest in European hand-tied design by crafting an elegant bouquet suitable for a bridal party.

Eva Winans placed second in tablescape, the other professional contest for those who had previously competed in the amateur division or done paid work as floral designers. The winner was Monica De Anda of California Polytechnic. A complete tablescape includes tall banquet arrangements, decorated place settings and napkin rings made from fresh flowers.

The winning designs were on display during Friday's banquet, with awards kept secret until the ceremony.

Cal Poly's team won the highly competitive floral evaluation or judging contest by ranking 30 classes of cut and potted flowers. Wisconsin-River Falls was second, followed by Wisconsin-Platteville.

"This is the kind of experience that complements academic work by helping students make the transition into their careers," Picchioni said. "Doing well in this competition looks great on a resume."

In addition to the competition, the 70 participating students met potential employers on industry tours of local floral and cactus greenhouses. Evening entertainment and sightseeing tours rounded out the activities.

"The desert poppies they saw on the way to White Sands were particular favorites," Picchioni said. "Several of the students said they want to come back to New Mexico."