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At that stage she had not even considered working in the dairy industry as a career option.
Now she is the Southland/Otago Dairy Trainee of the Year and has a dozen job offers to consider.
This was the second time Ms Cormack had entered the competition - she placed third last year.
The win was even more remarkable because when she went through the final judging, she had only been out of hospital for two days after having her appendix removed.
Ms Cormack said she enjoyed the challenge of the competition.
"The positive feedback from last year helped me gauge my strengths and weaknesses, enabling me to focus on areas that needed improving.
"I love that challenge, and the contacts I have made [during the competition] have been awesome."
She spent two years at university before deciding her heart was not in her choice of study and decided to take a gap year off.
Dairy farmer John-Mark Lietze, of Heriot, suggested she see him for a chat.
"I started casual milking for him and that turned into an assistant's job, and that turned into a shed manager's job, and I loved it," she said.
"Every day is a bit different and I like how we can progress through the dairy industry and push ourselves, and go as fast or as slow as we want.
"The only drawback sometimes are the long hours, especially through calving and mating."
Ms Cormack worked on the Lietze's 600-cow farm for three years, then moved to a 2IC position for Stefan and Holly Roulston on their 220ha Heriot property.
But she recently left the job.
Since her win, she has received about a dozen job offers and is looking at the options.
"I just want to keep bettering myself."
She has also had several offers to help prepare for the national competition in Wellington on May 11.
Ms Cormack has nearly finished her Primary ITO Dairy Farming Level 4 qualification, and has also completed a DairyNZ Biz Start programme.
"My goal is to have my own dairy farm, but I also would like to go either contract or sharemilking," she said.
She is still enthusiastic about sport and has organised the social touch competition for Heriot, in which 15 teams take part.
She also coached swimming for the Tapanui Swimming Club for five seasons and the Blue Mountain College's girls' first XV rugby team for three years.
She is also involved in fundraising for Tapanui's new rest-home.
Ms Cormack will speak at the Southland/Otago dairy awards field day on the Van Dorsten's property in Outram on April 17.
YVONNE O'HARA firstname.lastname@example.org