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Cuyahoga Community College shares the keys to its NCLC win

April 5, 2023 -  By
At the 2023 NCLC Tri-C secured their first-ever first-place victory. (Photo: Philippe Nobile Photography/National Association of Landscape Professionals)

At the 2023 NCLC Tri-C secured their first-ever first-place victory. (Photo: Philippe Nobile Photography/National Association of Landscape Professionals)

The National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) 2023 National Collegiate Landscaping Competition (NCLC) wrapped up this year with a new team taking home top honors.

Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) of Cleveland, Ohio, secured a first-place finish and unseat Brigham Young University (BYU) of Provo, Utah, which has won the competition every year since 2017. Tri-C has done well in the past, finishing second overall in the competition, and Peyton Musgrave earned the prize for the event’s top overall student last year. However, this marks the first-ever first-place victory for Tri-C.

Long-standing goal

Jim Funai, Ph.D., assistant professor of plant and landscape technology of Tri-C’s program, has been helping drive toward this first-place goal since 2009 and explained the excitement around the win.

“To have had that goal for 13 straight years and finally get it was huge,” said Funai. “It’s the perfect proof that we’re teaching everything here that you get at a university, just we’re doing it much cheaper.”

With Tri-C only offering a two-year program and students cycling through every two years, Funai said it adds to the difficulty of winning the competition since there is less time to train the team and familiarize them with the competition. Funai credits the team’s perseverance and an intense six-week training schedule leading up to the competition as some of the factors that led to the school’s success.

“We trained more, we trained harder, this team was ready. They had that thirst (to win),” said Funai.

Opportunities abound

This year’s NCLC saw nearly 700 horticulture and landscape students from more than 50 universities and colleges test their skills in 30 real-world, competitive events. Funai described the importance the competition represents for the green industry as a whole.

“A big problem we always face is the stigma that we cut grass and that’s such a minuscule part of what we do, (NCLC) helps us tell the story of what we do,” explained Funai. “The competition is a good example of the myriad of careers that students can get into and to help people wrap their head around just how gigantic the opportunities are in this whole field.”

Tri-C team will look to create their own winning streak at the 2024 NCLC, while BYU will host next year’s competition, set for March 13-16, 2024.

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