KINSTON, N.C. — The FFA Creed has five paragraphs along with 258 words. Rachel Noble has spent years learning it, but especially learning what it is about.

It was all worth it on Thursday when the South Lenoir High School sophomore won the top award in Creed Speaking competition at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis.

“I don’t think it’s truly sunk in yet,” Rachel said in a telephone interview from Indianapolis on Friday, a “whirlwind” 24 hours after she was named national champion. “It’s been a little bit overwhelming, but in the best way possible.”

Just getting to the national stage took almost as much stamina as skill. Rachel won Creed competition at the chapter, federation and Southeast Region level before claiming first place at the North Carolina FFA Convention against 24 competitors in June.

As North Carolina’s representative at the national convention, she faced 46 other state winners in competition that began with a 12-hour day on Wednesday and ended Thursday afternoon when, after another round of interview questions related to the Creed, Rachel and three other finalists were called to the stage individually to recite the Creed before an audience of about 2,000 and on live television.

Her poise is a product of her experience in competition and her hard work, according to Josh Singleton, a South Lenoir agriculture science teacher and FFA advisor.

“Rachel has been working toward competing at the national level since she was in the seventh grade. She never backed down, never slowed down and has always looked for opportunities to hone her interview skills and her public speaking abilities,” Singleton said.

“I learned the creed back in sixth grade and since then I have worked on continuing to memorize and better understand it so that when I speak I can speak with passion and understanding,” Rachel said.

Finishing second in the state as an eighth grader only spurred her ambition. “Of course, I was not satisfied with that,” Rachel said. “I had bigger goals and I have worked really hard over this past year so I could continue to better myself. I’m really thankful that it has gotten me here.”

She is steeped in agriculture – working for years on her family’s Christmas tree farm – and is a leader in FFA. Currently, she is president of the South Lenoir chapter and of the Neuse Federation, which includes South Lenoir, North Lenoir, Greene Central and Jones Senior high schools. She is vice president of the Southeast Region.

And she is the first national winner from a chapter advised by Singleton in his 12 years of teaching. “I’m beyond excited and proud,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to have a student that can win at the national level.”