They may be cutting down overgrown trees instead of cutting down nets in celebration, but BYU’s landscaping program just brought home another national championship.

For the fifth time in six years, BYU students dug, pruned and planted their way to the National Collegiate Landscaping Competition title, the March Madness of college landscaping teams. BYU bested 50 other universities in the four-day event, outscoring the second-place finisher by more than 358 points and breaking the 5000-point total for the first time in the 48-year history of the tournament.

“We lost last year by 11 points… 11 points! So the team was motivated to win it this year,” said BYU faculty coach Greg Jolley. “This was the most dominant performance ever by a BYU team.”

The 2024 win represents the 9th landscaping National Championship for BYU. BYU bested a lineup of major university competitors — including Auburn, Penn State, Mississippi State, Virginia Tech, NC State and Georgia — by accumulating the most points across 30 individual competitions. Competitions ranged from irrigation troubleshooting to turf and weed identification to compact excavator operation and exterior landscape design.

Last year’s winner, Cuyahoga Community College, took second place, followed by Colorado State University, BYU-Idaho and Michigan State University.

Jolley said he believes BYU’s ongoing success in the competition is a direct result of the student’s unique preparation and approach. Unlike other competing schools, BYU’s team is student driven and not faculty driven. That was especially the case this year, as Jolley and fellow faculty adviser Phil Allen were involved in the intricacies of hosting the event.

Team captain and plant and landscape systems major Shelby Monks said one key to BYU’s success was an added spiritual focus. Every night of the four-day competition the students tapped into BYU’s dual heritage by gathering for a student-run team meeting, followed by a devotional.

“The night before the awards ceremony, one of our students gave the sweetest, most inspiring devotionals that brought the team to tears,” Monks said. “His message reminded us all how blessed and lucky we are to be a part of such a beautiful academic family, and how lucky we are to be able to share our testimonies to strengthen and uplift each other!”

Monks wasn’t the only one who felt the lift from the spiritual focus.

“I just want to say I’m so grateful for all the devotionals and for the spirit that has been felt this week, even amongst all the craziness,” a fellow BYU student and team member shared in the team’s group chat. “It’s certainly helped strengthen my testimony and I know it’s impacted others!” Added another: “I started tearing up in the parking [lot] just thinking of how wonderful you all are and how blessed I am to hear and feel your testimonies of the Savior.”

Roughly 60 students represented BYU in the competition, held at BYU’s campus the second weekend in March, with 15 of those students finishing in the top three of their individual events and nine of them finishing in first place.

BYU students also earned 13 of the 75 scholarships awarded at the event, the highest total of any one school. BYU student Isaac Broberg took home the top honors with a $5,000 President’s Scholarship, while his cousin Spencer Broberg earned the $2,200 Scott Allen Memorial Scholarship and teammate Tyler Stewart took home the $2,000 Doesburg Family Scholarship.

“I couldn’t help but feel that our students are helping fulfill, in at least a small way, the words of Spencer W. Kimball in his Second Century address when he spoke of BYU students having a unique light that we can send forth into the educational world,” said faculty coach Phil Allen. “I really feel like our team has done some special things here that are left undone by other institutions.”