Horticulture thrives with senior Haddad

Grace Brunzell, Staff Writer

The Horticulture team is one of South’s most successful and accomplished teams, as can be demonstrated by the numerous championship banners decorating the walls of the New Pit. The team competes annually at State, and if it succeeds there, it travels to Nationals. Horticulture is the study of plants, and training and competitions consist of plant identification, plant sorting and plant judging.

One of Horticulture team’s key players planning to uphold the team’s winning tradition this year is senior Nicole Haddad, according to coach Jeff Yordy.

There are many skills required to be efficient in studying Horticulture, including a vast knowledge of the material, according to Haddad, who knows over 300 plants and counting.

Haddad has been on the Horticulture Team at South since the middle of her sophomore year. While she has added to the success of the program with her high rankings in almost every competition, she says the team has also changed her.

“I took Horticulture as an elective because I had no idea what it was about, and I just wanted something completely random,” Haddad said..

After the elective, she joined the team as the only sophomore involved. The first time she realized how captivating and interesting it is was during one of Yordy’s speeches highlighting the significance of plants in the world.

“One day in class, [Yordy] was talking about if aliens came to [Earth], they might not automatically assume that humans were in charge because plants are far older and there are so many more of them,” Haddad said. “In a way, they are more advanced because they can make their own food without even moving. I took that, and I [thought] plants are really cool and really diverse.”

Haddad’s interest has blossomed ever since, and she has been heavily involved with the team. How expansive what she is studying has also become one of the core reasons plants are so fascinating to her.

“[I] usually I get tired of things, I get bored, but with plants, I don’t get bored because there’s always more,” Haddad said.

Her abilities, in addition to her dedication, have also caught the eyes of her fellow teammates.

“She knows what she is doing, and she is very confident,” senior Fangda Lu, one of Haddad’s teammates, said. “She remembers all the plants and can find them very fast […] she loves plants.”

According to Haddad, her first competition was by far the scariest.

“Being in a room with people you didn’t know [and to not know] what you were doing, but everyone acted like they knew what they were doing,” Haddad said. “It was a little bit uncomfortable, I felt a little out of place, but then after you go through your first competition […] you know what to do.”

From then on, Haddad has grown more and more comfortable with every competition. Her favorite one happened to be one she did exceptionally well in.

Last year, when Haddad was a junior, the team went to University of Illinois for State. The next week, Yordy had the results. According to Haddad, each team member was called into the office one by one to see the results and where they placed.

“Yordy basically looked really upset. He gave me a handshake and said, ‘I’m sorry, you did really really bad,’” Haddad said. “And honestly I sort of accepted it. I was like, ‘Oh that’s ok, I tried I guess, it’s not that big of a deal.’ And he handed me the results, and he pointed to my name, which was the first, the highest scoring person in the whole competition, and I was just completely shocked [..] I had no idea what to say. It was the first time in my life I was actually speechless.”

Although she has experienced success, working with others in Horticulture is what she values most about being part of the team. For her, it has a unique sense of unity that some teams lack.

“It pulls together a bunch of people, that wouldn’t have necessarily gotten to know each other as well […] with varied interests and different social groups and it makes for a very interesting group dynamic,” Haddad said.

Haddad says she might not have been involved if it was not for South.

“There’s this thing at GBS where you feel like you have to be involved in something, and Horticulture team was this sort of weird, a little bit under-the-radar something for me,” Haddad said. “I did it because it was something fun to do, and I liked the people that were there.”