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PWS Students Triumph at the National Collegiate Landscape Competition

BYU hosted the National Collegiate Landscape Management Competition (NCLC) for the third time, led by Professors Greg Jolley and Phil Allen in the Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences (PWS). Students from universities across the nation gathered to show off their skills at locations throughout campus. Hosting NCLC allowed 64 BYU PWS students to attend and compete, the largest number of BYU students to ever compete in this contest.

Two students wearing blue use an orange level to ensure their ground is flat for their installation
Photo by Tanner Frost
A BYU student wearing gray and brown is seen holding a rope and is in a harness as he climbs a tree.
Photo by Tanner Frost

The competition affords students opportunities to grow in their careers. “The students network and make friends with competitors from other schools,” Allen says. “They also had the opportunity to network and interview with companies, so a lot of them already have really good employment or internship offers. That's really what it's all about, being part of a community of professionals who love being outside and making the world more beautiful.”

BYU students primarily led the team. “All other universities that compete in [NCLC] have faculty-driven competitive teams. This is unique to BYU,” remarks Jolley. “The faculty and grounds staff are just support to mentor and prepare the students for the competitions, but the students create the synergy and team dynamic that makes them successful.”

The BYU team prepared for the NCLC in a variety of ways. Team leads Shelby Monks (PWS ’25) and Johanna Davis (PWS ’24) led the group in practices prior to the competition. Many students also participated in BYU’s Plant and Landscape Systems (PALS) club, where the club leadership trained and coached students in all events. As part of their education, PWS students are encouraged to spend a season working for BYU’s grounds crew. This on-the-job training is unique to BYU and provides them with real-world experience and an edge as competitors. “[BYU Grounds] are our ‘secret weapon,’” enthuses Jolley.

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"That's really what it's all about, being part of a community of professionals who love being outside and making the world more beautiful."
Phil Allen
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Winning Students

A girl crouching down to work in the dirt.
Photo by Tanner Frost

Savannah Keller (PWS ’25) won first place in Computer Aided Landscape Design, a contest where students designed a backyard layout in under two hours. Her event required her to complete the computer design, a feat in and of itself, yet she connected with other students through the contest and PWS program that could bring her design to life in the future. “I love this industry because we all work together outside, and that unites us, but everyone has their own little unique thing that they do,” she shares. “I love to design, draw, and imagine spaces, yet I have a lot of friends who will grow my plants and know how to install and maintain my design. We can all come together here and help each other achieve the goals we're working towards together.”

Another first-place winner in irrigation design, Kate Mizukawa (PWS ’25), answered questions about irrigation principles from a provided commercial design. She appreciates the support her mentors gave her throughout the preparation process. “One of the best parts of my preparation was meeting with Chris Hull from BYU’s irrigation shop for an hour or so each week,” she reflects. “He was able to share his expertise, answer my questions, give me real-life examples of irrigation design concepts, and walk through designs with me. He was a great mentor.”

Two BYU students and a judge watch as a sprinkler sprays in front of them.
Photo by Tanner Frost

Isaac Smith (PWS ’25) won first place in the irrigation troubleshooting event. He and his teammate, Joseph Daniels (PWS ’25), had to fix problems in an irrigation pipe. “Joey and I were inspecting a valve to see what was wrong and found that we had to flush out some debris in order to get it working,” he remembers. “When we turned on the water with the top of the valve off, a huge geyser of water shot up in the air and drenched us. With the stress and tension of competing, funny moments like that one helped us to relax and have fun even though we were locked-in competing.”

Some students, like teammates Tyler Stewart (PWS ’26) and Israel Boekweg (PWS ’25), spent the entire year preparing for their events. They both competed in the hardscape installation, a contest that requires students to install a mini patio design in under two hours. Their preparation led to their success: “Israel and I work on the hardscape crew for BYU. We work together almost every day repairing and installing the hardscapes on campus,” Stewart shared. “We also did multiple practice run-throughs to ensure that we were prepared for the competition. We had a couple of unexpected things come up during the contest, but we adapted as a team and continued to work calmly and consistently.”

BYU Hosting Affects Other Schools

Attendees from other schools appreciated the welcoming environment that BYU created throughout the competition.

A mentor from California Polytechnic University came to campus the last time BYU hosted in 2017 and loved returning to Utah. “The backdrop is just stunning,” he said. “I've been to a lot of locations for NCLC and I think here in Utah, BYU, they do it right. They just do an exceptional job.”

A huge competition field is shown as students from a number of schools install trees and other shrubbery
Photo by Tanner Frost

A student from Columbus State appreciated the network opportunities that the conference and BYU provided: “The career fair was great because you get to go out and meet people. I went to dinner last night and I connected with three other people.”

A Kansas State University student shared that she loved meeting individuals from across the country. “My favorite part has been getting to meet everybody from all over the industry and interacting with leaders and students,” she says. “It is cool to see where leaders have been and where I could be in the future.”

A green background announcing BYU is the number one school is shown with a student receiving the award standing below it on a stage.
Photo by Tanner Frost

“I think there's a lot of the people in this event, whether they're of our faith or others, who are really good, solid people,” Allen shares. “There's something spiritual about working with nature and God's creations and doing so in a more sustainable way.”

BYU students placed first in nine of the thirty events, and were in the top three in most other events. The university also won the overall national champion award—BYU’s ninth win. This was the first time any team has won with more than 5,000 total points out of 6,000.



First Place
3D Exterior Landscape Design: Spencer Broberg
Business Management: Shelby Monks
Computer Aided Landscape Design: Savannah Keller
Hardscape Installation: Israel Boekweg and Tyler Stewart
Irrigation Design: Kate Mizukawa
Irrigation Troubleshooting: Joseph Daniels and Isaac Smith
Plant Problem Diagnosis: Angelica Franco
Sales Presentation: Emma Greenwood
Turf and Weed Identification: Emma Quigley

Second Place
Exterior Landscape Design: Leah Bloomquist
Interior Plant Identification: Hannah Skousen

Third Place
Arboriculture Techniques: Noah Thomas and Russell Torgersen
Interior Landscape Design: Vanessa Pien
Landscape Plant Installation: Ashley Buth, McKinsey Flores, and Owen Ivory
Maintenance Cost Estimating: Ethan Smurthwaite
Three students are seen receiving an award.
Photo by Tanner Frost