Even before the 2016 Champaign County Fair kicked off on Aug. 5, Graham High School senior Annie Springer was having a year to remember having verbally committed in February to play Division I women’s college soccer for Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia.
On Monday, Springer, who is scheduled to graduate high school early this December and enroll in college in January 2017, walked into the Swine Show Arena at the Champaign County Fairgrounds in Urbana and exited with the biggest trophy to be had, showing the Grand Champion Overall Market Gilt.
So what does the 17-year-old credit for all her success in and out of the show ring? Well, it’s simple. A little time and effort.
“What makes for success in the ring is hard work,” she said. “You definitely have to put in the work outside the barn, and not just a few weeks before the fair. You have to put the work in right when you get your animal.
“If you put that hard work in, it will pay off in the end. It has definitely paid off for me,” Springer added.
As for the 269-pound, crossbred Grand Champion Overall Market Gilt, Springer said, she owned the show ring from the moment the two stepped in.
“I wasn’t sure she could win it all because there are a lot of good pigs here, but I knew she had a good shot because she’s one of those good pigs,” Springer said. “She’s pretty flashy in the show ring as she is able to catch the judge’s eye right when she walks out. She struts her stuff because she knows she’s good.”
Prior to the Market Gilt Show, Springer’s gilt, which was bred by Nott Showpigs, Woodstock, was crowned Champion Born & Raised Gilt, while another one of Springer’s pigs took home the title of Reserve Champion Breeding Gilt.
Showing swine at the Champaign County Fair wasn’t always in Springer’s plans. Up until this year, she had always shown sheep, but her focus began to shift to pigs after taking part in a crowd favorite at the 2014 fair – the pig scramble.
“After participating in the pig scramble, I had to take a pig the next year from the pig scramble, so that’s how I got started showing pigs” Springer said. “I ended up liking it a lot more than showing sheep, I guess you can say.”
Springer, however, was no slouch when it came to showing sheep – having shown the Grand Champion Market Lamb during the 2015 fair.
Despite having shown grand champions in back-to-back years, Springer doesn’t think she will step back into the show ring in 2017, despite having eligibility left.
“Right now, it’s a pretty amazing feeling to have won grand champion overall,” she said. “Being only my second year showing pigs, I feel pretty accomplished. It’s a nice way to end my 4-H career with a grand champion.”