Beating the Clock And COVID-19

Amanda Terrell, a 19-year-old high school senior regularly competes in Breakaway Roping, Goat Tying and Barrel Racing. At finals she proudly became the 2020 Reserve Champion All-Around and, out of 158 entrants, placed 9th in Breakaway Roping.
Photo courtesy “Dirt” Terrell

The National High School Rodeo Finals were scheduled for July 19-25 in Lincoln, Neb. But with only about 60 days prior to opening day, the Lincoln venue declined the huge event. But please, no laments that COVID-19 restrictions cancelled the long-awaited action. No indeed.

Colorado State High School Rodeo Association Director “Dirt” Terrell of Lasalle, Colo., reported that, with just 40 days left to re-book elsewhere, a fine replacement venue was located in Guthrie, Okla., albeit with dates slightly tweaked to July 17-23.

It’s no easy task moving 1,400-plus contestants, horses and livestock on such short notice. Yet that’s exactly what the organization did. Terrell advised that this is the largest rodeo in the world, drawing participants from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Mexico. (Australian members sadly did have to forego this year’s finals due to various logistical restrictions, however.)

Terrell assured that all rules were followed and everything went quite smoothly. He should know because all state directors run the entire show, from organizing livestock care to running the gates to keeping contestants on-time for scheduled events.


Colorado entrants and those from Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas fared quite well. One of those happy high-schoolers was Terrell’s daughter, Amanda Terrell. The 19-year-old high school senior regularly competes in Breakaway Roping, Goat Tying and Barrel Racing. At Finals she proudly became the 2020 Reserve Champion All-Around and, out of 158 entrants, placed 9th in Breakaway Roping.

Terrell is a four-year member of the High School Rodeo Association, and spent three years competing throughout junior high as well.

“I’ve pretty much been rodeoing all my life,” she said.

In fact, when just 4, she clambered up into the saddle for her first set of events… and won a saddle at the tender, loose-tooth age of 6.

Terrell thoughtfully selected her mounts for state and national classes from among multiple posibilities. Ultimately, she took three really good Quarter Horse geldings with her to Guthrie.

Nitro, a 15-year-old bay, was her Breakaway Roping go-to. Goat Tying partner Mex adeptly carried her in hot pursuit of their four-legged quarry. When it came time to run barrels, Terrell swung up onto Slimmy, a 10-ish year-old sorrel, and off they sped to fleetly tackle the pattern.

Each horse brought along his own unique training background and experience. Slimmy, for example, was borrowed from friends and is the usual barrel/pole horse for 10-year-old Mackenzie Geesen. Terrell rode Slimmy in fall 2019, seasoning him at state events including barrels.

A 20-plus-year-old rodeo trooper, Mex belongs to the Terrell family.

A Wyoming ranch owner, regular rodeo contestant and Amanda’s grandpa, Butch Terrell owns Nitro. The 75-year-old had a lung transplant five years ago but doesn’t let that stop him from riding, working and competing.

Like her grandfather, Amanda Terrell flexibly adapted to myriad changes when the finals venue changed.

“For as little time as they had to pull this off, it went amazing,” she complimented finals’organizers.

She elaborated that the Guthrie location was smaller, had fewer campsites than did Lincoln, and employed an indoor arena rather than outdoor rings. But everyone pulled together to make it work.

High School Rodeo Association kids are like a big family, added Terrell. She wanted to especially thank the Geesen family for letting her use Slimmy at her very successful finals experience.


Reece Wadhams and partner Beto Cisneros, both of Pueblo, Colo., became Team Roping Reserve World Champions, competing against more than 200 other teams at finals.

The 18-year-old pair galloped to victory with Wadhams riding La Veta, a bay Quarter Horse gelding. Wadhams has had the finished horse for two years, acquiring the 9-year-old from the Bar Nothing Ranch, where he was raised and Cisneros works.

Cisneros competed on a chestnut Quarter Horse mare off the same ranch. She and La Vita were both trained by Ranch Manager J.T. Schalla.

Wadhams grew up in the saddle. He said that his mother rode and showed horses when she was younger; his dad and step-mom continue to show horses. Wadhams’ 22-year-old brother, Bryer, made it to High School Finals in 2014 and still ropes.

Looking out into the future from between his horse’s ears, Wadhams and roping buddy Cisneros have both enrolled at Laramie County Community College where this coming fall they will study ranch management. Both plan to continue roping, this time for the LCCC rodeo team.

After completing the college’s two-year study program, Wadhams said he will join the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and “see where I am then.”

But right now, after a successful finals but before college starts, Wadhams and Cisneros rope with another good friend, 20-year-old Trevor Singleton. The trio attended Pueblo County High School while spending lots more hours stirring up dust together in area roping arenas.

Hopefully the 2021 National High School Rodeo Finals will find entrants competing against the clock and/or each other rather than a combating a pandemic with all it has to throw at them. But the 2020 event has proven that, regardless the number of roadblocks, its state directors and team members are more than up to meeting the challenges. ❖

— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at

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