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The McDonell boys basketball team and students celebrate with their Division 5 sectional championship plaque after the Macks defeated South Shore 62-48 on Saturday evening in Spooner. McDonell will play in the state semifinals on Friday morning in Madison. For more from the game, check out sports on Page B1.

Students compete, learn at CVTC Ag Skills competition

With a long plastic sleeve over her arm, Cadott High School senior Vanessa Hanson reached into the back end of a cow, all the way up to her shoulder. This time, it was just a simulator at the Chippewa Valley Technical College Energy Education Center during the annual Ag Skills Competition, but Hanson is prepared for the real thing.

“I want to be a veterinarian, so most likely I will do that for real,” she said.

Hanson was one of 97 students from 10 high schools attending the Tuesday, March 6, Ag Skills Competition, which included tours of CVTC’s Energy Education Center where the agriculture programs are housed, interaction with CVTC students in agriculture programs and a trip to the nearby Eau Claire Farm Show.

CVTC holds the Ag Skills competition each year so high school students from a wide area can come to Eau Claire for a day of ag education. The dairy competition involves teams of students completing tasks at multiple stations, like evaluating feed rations, determining a proper medicinal dosage for a cow and identifying common animal science tools. There were also competitions in agronomy and floriculture.

A Menomonie team finished first in the dairy competition, with Cornell second and Arcadia and Menomonie teams tied for third. Stanley-Boyd students Katie Swope, Mckenna Endvick and Adrian Taylor swept the first three spots in the florticulture competition. In the Agronomy contest, Kaden Bowman of Osseo-Fairchild was first, with Stanley-Boyd students Ben Milas and Taylor Licht tied for second and Cordell Black of Menomonie fourth.

“This goes hand-in-hand with all the dual credit agreements we have in agriculture classes with our partner high schools,” said CVTC Dean of agriculture, energy and transportation Adam Wehling. “And we want to get the students to our campus so they can see what we have to offer.”

“This is a great partnership with CVTC and the local high schools,” said CVTC animal science instructor Adam Zwiefelhofer. “These are our future students. It gives them a quick snapshot of what we do on a daily basis. It allows them to get to know the faculty.”

Zwiefelhofer acknowledged the competition encourages students to consider furthering their education in agriculture and is a great recruiting tool for CVTC, but it’s also about learning and sharpening knowledge and skills in agriculture.

“It’s for artificial insemination,” Hanson said of her adventure inside the simulated reproductive tract. “You go through the uterus and try to find the ovarian follicle. We just went through this in our class, but not as advanced as this — they’re not kidding about having to use your whole arm.”

“We’re determining which feed supply is best for milking cows,” Brandon Dirks of Stanley-Boyd High School said at another station where students examined data provided. “You send feed sample to a nutritionist and they tell you how much protein, minerals and stuff are in it and that tells you which one is the best ration. My dad feeds our cows, so I know most of this stuff already.”

At another station, students had to match the feed to different categories of livestock.

“We’re analyzing three samples of feed and three examples of heifers, dry cows and lactating cows,” said Robert Fasbender of Cornell. “We’re determining what feed is best for which group.”

Other schools taking part in the competition were Gilman, Loyal and Eleva-Strum.

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Spring weather prompts thieving

Much like everyone else, thieves enjoy a spring thaw.

The Chippewa Falls Police Department is warning vehicle owners and drivers against an uptick in car thefts as the winter weather starts to melt away and temperatures begin to rise.

Police Chief Matt Kelm advised car owners to take valuable possessions out of their vehicles and to lock their doors, as thieves robbing from vehicles are often opportunists.

“They’re just walking down the street, trying door handles,” Kelm said, later adding that it is rare the department has a case of a vehicle being broken in to when it’s locked. “Only time is if there’s something very valuable in plain sight.”

Cars in driveways are also not immune to opportunistic thieves. Kelm said any unlocked parked car — be it at the mall, at home or downtown — is in danger of a break-in.

As temperatures reached into the low 40s during the first weekend in March, Kelm said officers responded to three separate car break-ins, including the theft of a firearm. The theft of the firearm, Kelm said, is concerning.

“No one — no one — should leave their firearm in their unlocked vehicles,” Kelm said. “If you choose to have a firearm in your vehicle, you should lock it up.”

The trend of warmer temperatures leading to vehicle break-ins isn’t anything new, Kelm said.

Last year, between July and November, the department saw more than 70 cases of vehicle break-ins. A majority of these cases have also gone unsolved, Kelm said, as the items stolen were untraceable or taken in a rapid crime.

“It’s so quick, it happens so fast and they’re very mobile items,” Kelm said. “It’s a big city, and we only have so many sets of eyes looking around.”

Just southwest from Chippewa Falls, Lake Hallie Police Chief Cal Smokowicz said that while he does not know the hard numbers of car thefts in warmer and colder weather, an uptick in crimes as the weather warms is inevitable.

Speeding citations also go up as temperatures do, Smokowicz said, despite winter weather causing more of accidents.

“As weather gets nicer your crime rates go up. Everyone’s hunkered down in the wintertime,” Smokowicz said. “Everyone enjoys the warm weather — even people that do illegal activities.”

Smokowicz also encouraged drivers to lock their vehicles and be vigilant of their possessions — something his experience in law enforcement has taught him.

“After 35 years in law enforcement, I have a tendency to lock things up,” Smokowicz said.

To report a car theft call 715-723-4424 in Chippewa Falls and 715-726-2666 in Lake Hallie. In the case of an emergency, call 911.