She had one chance. With it she captured the top prize.
Bonnie Crispin, a sophomore at Frostburg State University in Allegany County, is Carroll's first 4-H Presidential Tray winner in the program's 69-year history.
Crispin, one of 12 young people across the country who received the club's highest honor at the National 4-H Congress in Chicago last week, will serve as a national 4-H ambassador for the year.
"We will be working with anybody and everybody that wants us," said the 19-year-old environmental planning and analysis major.
Crispin said she will help the national council create new programs for 4-H members and meet with national corporations that sponsor those programs.
"Most of the 12 representatives live out west," said Crispin, the daughter of Fran and Forrest V. Crispin Jr., of Hampstead.
Crispin received an engraved silver tray -- presented for President George Bush by a member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- and a $1,500 college scholarship from the Reader's Digest Foundation.
Crispin, a national winner in the "citizenship" category, earned a $1,500 scholarship from the Coca-Cola Foundation for a record book with a 50-page report describing her community activities.
"I had to describe every community service I did from 1980 and up, whether I was making Christmas ornaments in a nursing home, helping with a blood drive or helping with the (Hampstead Fire Department) Ladies Auxiliary," she said.
In addition, the former state fire queen had to submit a six-page, detailed description and pictures of her citizenship work.
The top 12, chosen on the basis of overall achievement in 4-H and personal interviews, were selected from 64 national winners recommended by state advisers.
Panels of three representatives from the USDA, the National 4-H Council and state leaders asked the 64 candidates to describe their mentors and what they would ask President Bush if they met him, Crispin said.
Twenty-four finalists were then interviewed by a panel of five in the second round.
"One of the hardest questions was 'If you were meeting the president, how would you describe 4-H and how it ran?' " said Crispin. She said she described the university extension agencies, the USDA and the 4-H program and how they work together.
Crispin had planned to champion environmental concerns after graduation, but winning the tray has changed that.
"I had thought, 'Well, now I'll be out of 4-H,' but now I'm thinking of going into extension service work," she said.
Crispin's community activities include organizing a chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving at North Carroll High in 1988; work with the "Kids on the Block Program," which uses life-size puppets to teach children about handicaps; and fire-prevention work with the Hampstead Fire Department.
Participants can attend the National Congress only once, so as many 4-Hers as possible can have the experience. Only winners in categories sponsored by national corporations are eligible for the presidential tray.
Participants sponsored by local corporations cannot compete nationally.
Other state winners representing Carroll were Emily Metcalf and Rachel Wagner, both students at Westminster High School.
Emily, who also won on the regional level, won in the "horticulture" division. The 12 regional winners then competed on the national level.
"I had the best time," the 16-year-old junior said. "There were a lot of things to do, and I met so many people."
Rachel, a winner in the "child-care" category, agreed.
"Some of the best days of my life have been the past few days," she said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience."
Rachel, 17, could not compete on the regional level since her specialty was sponsored by a local company, Maryland Grange.
"We just get a scholarship to go to Chicago," the WHS senior said. "We can't compete for the $1,500 college scholarships in each specialty area."
Emily is the daughter of Joan and Clair Metcalf.
Rachel, daughter of Gary and Judy Wagner, is Miss Carroll County 4-H.