Since they were fledgling members of the Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association, Carley Krull and Joseph Opsal have looked up to the older members in the statewide organization—each harboring hopes that one day they would be tapped to receive the highest honor conferred on a junior member.
"When I was 4 years old, I remember sitting there and looking up to the Outstanding Boy and Girl receiving their award," an emotional Krull told Wisconsin Junior Holstein Association (WJHA) members gathered at the annual conference last weekend. "I was thinking, 'I just know that will never be me because I'm me'. Anyone out there who thinks they can’t achieve this, you can!"
Each year at the annual convention, two individuals who have excelled and grown throughout their experience as a junior member are selected to receive the WJHA's Outstanding Boy and Girl award.
"I have always kept this goal in mind as I have progressed in my junior career," said Opsal. "There were several other amazing juniors in contention who also deserved this award. I was very humbled that I was selected."
The Wisconsin Holstein Association has always been a part of Carley Krull's life. The Lake Mills native says her parents, Cindy Krull-Begeman and the late Brian Krull (a former WHA director) were active members of the association and shared their enthusiasm with their children.
"The time and dedication that my parents had for the WHA showed me just how important it was to be involved," Krull said.
That bond with the WHA and WJHA was never more evident after Krull's father passed away nearly eight years ago in a farm accident at the age of 44.
"The outpouring of love and support I felt through that tragic time in my life from the WHA and WJHA friends was indescribable. I knew then that this was a place I could call home," Krull said. "Even though he was not able to see me receive this award, I know my dad lives on through each one of the Juniors in our association as that is where his passion lay—with the youth of our industry."
This aspiring photographer and cattleman says his success in the WJHA hasn't come naturally. The Blue Mounds native said stepping out of his comfort zone was a bit "terrifying" at first.
"I have always been very introverted and WJHA has taught me to step out of my comfort zone," Opsal, 19, said. "I've always been terrified of public speaking but I decided to run for the Junior Activities Committee two years ago, and since then I have been exposed to so many amazing experiences, and met so many new people that I am grateful for."
Even as a young Junior, Opsal knew WJHA was for him.
"I've always known it was a right fit for me. We are like a giant family. At every WHA event I attend I am greeted by everyone and welcomed by all," he said. "Although some may have differences, all of the members have one common love—the Holstein cow."
In their own right
Both Krull and Opsal are grateful for past Juniors and adult members who have mentored them in the past, and have helped to develop them into leaders in their own right.
"It was always fun to go and watch the older kids and be with them because I knew they were the best of the best," Krull said. "And through all of those people I learned to never give up, stick with it and be kind to others. The WJHA has truly shaped me into the person I am today."
Opsal says that all of the leaders, coaches, volunteers and advisors have provided the tools he needs to step into the future.
"They all have had my back and helped me whenever I needed it," he said. "They are always just a phone call away whenever I have any questions or need any advice. Without their encouragement and support I wouldn't be where I am today."
Whether WJHA members hail from the farm or not, Krull says the young members in her organization are all exceptional.
"That is what it is all about; being an outstanding person that is excited for the future of our industry and our youth," she said.
A new chapter
Opsal is currently attending Madison College and is working towards an associate degree in commercial photography.
"I plan to take over my parent's —Troy Opsal and Jane Sarbacker—dairy farm Opsal's Ridge Registered Holsteins while also having a small photography business on the side," he said.
Krull, 20, is a sophomore at Iowa State University majoring in dairy science with the intent to pursue a career in the dairy industry following graduation.
"I'm thinking of something in the dairy industry within reproduction, animal health or farm management," she said. "Honestly, I would be happy anywhere within the industry where I am able to have a positive impact on farmers and their cattle."
Opsal encourages younger members to try all of the events, competitions and leadership roles the WJHA has to offer.
"There are so many different, amazing opportunities in our association and every Junior can find something they love," he said.
Krull says she is excited to continue her journey into the adult association next year as she ends her junior career this coming year.
"I become extremely emotional as I realize just how much this association and the people in it mean to me," she said. "I cannot wait to transition into my adult membership role and give back to the youth however possible so that they have the same, if not better experiences that I did throughout my junior career."