MSU Places Fifth at NALP National Collegiate Landscape Competition

Michigan State University’s Student Horticulture Association made a strong showing at the so-called “Landscape Olympics:” the 47th Annual National Association of Landscape Professionals National Collegiate Landscape Competition.

2023 MSU Student Horticulture Association team at the opening ceremonies of the NALP competition.

Michigan State University’s Student Horticulture Association (MSU SHA) made a strong showing at the so-called “Landscape Olympics:” the 47th Annual National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) National Collegiate Landscape Competition. The MSU SHA team finished in fifth place overall out of 46 teams from colleges and universities from across the country.  

MSU SHA’s team was comprised of 27 students from certificate and degree programs in the horticulture and landscape architecture programs. SHA students participated in an array of 30 competitions covering the business and technical aspects of the landscape industry. They designed and constructed landscapes and irrigation systems, identified plants and pests, operated equipment, climbed trees, installed hardscapes, estimated costs and role-played various business and personnel management scenarios. There are both written exams and hands-on aspects to the competition. The events are timed, and students are judged by industry representatives on their performance and ability to follow guidelines. 

Student competitors performing installation.


“Competitive events were developed to cover different aspects of the landscape industry and to assist students in honing their practical skills as they prepare for the workforce,” explained team coach Marcus Duck, an academic specialist in the Department of Horticulture.  

In the Irrigation Assembly event, for example, each two-person team received detailed plans, a box of components, and a stack of pipe to assemble an above-ground irrigation system within 1 hour and 50 minutes.  The students are judged by irrigation professionals on how well they follow the plan, weld the PVC pipe and fittings, install and properly adjust the sprinkler heads (rotors, rotators and fixed sprays), communicate with each other to work as a team, and complete the work safely and efficiently. The students also had to overcome weather conditions: 40-degree temperatures and pouring rain, which flooded most of the field area with one to two inches of standing water. 

SHA team takes a selfie.

Team members included LilyRose Arriaga, Anna Baker, Mike Bednarczyk, Seth Benjamin, Sydney Bess, Tyler Bigos, Emma Brinks, Kelley Chase, Chandler Deering, Andrew Fox, Katie Fulkerson, Nate Higley, Ian Holcomb, Drew Jepson, Cailyn Kerner, Megan Kieda, Isaac McKay, Dan Onofrio, Steven Peterson, Joe Reamsnyder, Brandon Scott, Chloe Snyder, Parker Stephenson, Ila Tuller, Sarah Vanderlaan, Joey Vredevoogd and Wesley Walters.  

“We want students who can work together as a team to support each other and put in the hard work necessary to have a strong representation on the national stage, and you can really see that in this team,” said Duck. The MSU SHA team was selected in November based on skills, service to SHA, grades, enthusiasm, potential team chemistry – and on instinct that a particular student would stand out in a specific event.  

Joey Vredevoogd was MSU’s top scorer, placing 10th out of the 529 student competitors. The MSU team also earned the Career Development Series Award which recognizes schools with the most students participating in NLCL conference workshops, career events, interviews with industry and presentations.  Anna Baker and Emma Brinks were awarded scholarships from the NALP Foundation, and SHA President Ian Holcomb was recognized with the inaugural Kevin Kehoe Student Leader of the Year award.  

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