MERCEDES — Madison Stambaugh, 10, struggles to hold on to her goat, Babycakes, as it wiggles around her, almost tangling her in its rope.

Babycakes, who Madison confirms is usually this playful, won first place division champion in the 2018 Sale of Champions at the 79th annual Rio Grande Valley Livestock Show.

“It feels amazing,” she exclaimed, still struggling to keep the award-winning goat still.

Throughout the school year over 3,000 exhibitors like Madison raised their animals with care, in the hopes that they’d bring home some gold at this year’s stock show. Of those, only about 300 made the list for Grand Champion, Reserve Grand Champion, Breed Champion and other placements.

“There’s a lot of dedication and hard work that goes into this,” said 13-year-old Kayla Rodriguez of Harlingen.

Kayla’s hog won second place in its division, which she said is a product of many early mornings and long days spent caring for the animal.

The most anticipated award every year is the Grand Champion Steer. This year, that went to Danielle Rangel, 15, of Sharyland Pioneer High School.

Danielle’s steer — which she decked out elegantly with a sunflower necklace — weighed 1,325 pounds and sold for $21,000.

“It feels good to know that you can raise an animal that can win a big show like this,” she said.

In the past two years, the RGVLS has awarded $1.6 million in scholarships to students like Danielle. She plans on attending Baylor University, and hopes to join their basketball team while there.

She’s been showing animals since she was in third grade, so she’s gotten used to parting ways with the animals she raises. Even then, it’s not always easy.

“I don’t really cry because I don’t show my emotions too much, but toward the end I do miss them,” she said. “You go into the barn and the steer’s not there anymore. It’s kind of sad.”

The Grand Champions

Market steer – Danielle Rangel, Sharyland Pioneer FFA

Market hog – Caitlynn Cruz, Los Fresnos 4-H

Market goat: Melanie Faith Turrubiates, Sharyland 4-H

Market lamb – Joshua Muñoz, Santa Rosa FFA

Market rabbit – Harley Guzman, PSJA Memorial High School FFA

Market poultry – Hunter Simon, Highland Hustler 4-H