Colorado and Wyoming Students find success at NHSFR
Competing at the National High School Finals Rodeo is an honor for the 1,500 contestants who competed from the United States, Canada and Australia. The event, held from July 15-21 at the Sweetwater Event Complex in Rocky Springs, Wyo., crowned champions in both men’s and women’s events.
The top 20 contestants in each event competed in the short round. They competed for a National Championship, bragging rights, college scholarships, buckles and other products.
Several students from Wyoming and Colorado found success at the finals. One of the highest finishers was Dylan Wahlert of La Junta, Colo. He finished second in the bareback riding event.
“It has meant a lot to do that well. I’ve always wanted to win nationals, but second is pretty good too,” said Wahlert.
This was his fourth year competing at the finals, and this was his highest finish. Wahlert enjoys the sport, and plans to attend college on a full-ride scholarship to compete in rodeo. “I love the sport. Most of the people are really nice people, and I like the competition. I want to make a career and make it to the NFR one day,” he said.
Another second place finish went to Teal Stoll of Pavillion, Wyo. She placed second in pole bending, and also placed 61 in the barrel racing.
“It’s really amazing to see everything pay off. I’ve been really, really blessed. I’ll be a senior in the fall. It’s exciting to be able to go back another year,” she said.
Stoll has been barrel racing and pole bending since she was little. “I’ve always liked barrels, but with poles, my horse is really cool so I really like it now,” Stoll said.
Stoll plans on attending college for equine therapy, and will continue barrel racing after she finishes high school.
Kelton McMillen of Kim., Colo., finished fifth overall in the tie-down roping event. This was his second trip to the finals, and his most successful.
“It was cool. It topped off the whole high school experience for me. You haul to so many rodeos, and it’s the same kids every place. Once you get to the finals, it’s a different level,” he said.
He continued, “It was great to rope solid on three head. I was hauling a horse that I had just started. To have everything work out as well as it did, it was pretty humbling. It gave me a good start going into college.”
McMillen grew up on a ranch in Southeast Colorado, and spends all day working on the ranch. After he is done, he then practices roping. “Once work is done, it’s time to rope. It doesn’t matter if you are worn out or not, you have to keep sharp,” he said.
He keeps 12-15 head at his house, and uses them for 30-45 days to practice before he brings in new cattle. He then backgrounds the older calves, and sends them back to market once they have put on some weight. “I grow them as much as I can, and keep cattle rolling through,” he stated.
To be the best in his sport, McMillen always looks for new opportunities to grow. “It was hard growing up, because I was little. I would practice by myself, and it was really hard to see where I needed to impove. I was so young and so little, I had to sort it out on my own. I went to a few schools and that helped me out a lot. My dad and my brother also help me out in practice,” he said.
McMillen practices all year, even when it is too cold and the snow is too deep to be outside. “It’s a year round deal. Some of the winter months get pretty cold. You can always tie from the post all the time, however … if it was cold I would put them in the barn, and I could still get my groundwork sharp,” he said.
This dedication to getting better paid off for McMillen, and he will be heading to Texas to go to school and compete in rodeo. “In my opinion, it is the most difficult event that you can do with a rope. Every time it is different. It is enjoyable to look back on a run and see how you do,” McMillen said.
In the team roping event, Taten Koenig of Sanford, Colo., and Trenton Turner of Springfield, Colo., placed seventh. Turner is a senior, and this was his last finals, and his second trip. “I wasn’t nervous. Taten and I knew what we had to do, and it was just another run. I was just thankful to be there. This was the first year that we team roped together,” said Turner.
Placing this high at the finals was humbling for Turner. “It means a lot to me. Both Taten and I have roped since we were little. That’s all we wanted, to get to the next level. We won the state championship, and then to be recognized and go to nationals meant a lot to me. I felt accomplished. I felt that we both accomplished a goal in our roping,” he said.
Partnering with Koenig this year helped Turner to have his best finish. “Our partnership works pretty well. We get along really good after the rodeo. He ropes extremely well and he can rope any steer that I give him. I was thankful for getting him this year,” he stated.
Turner will attend college in Kansas next year for rodeo, and Koenig will be a senior.
Another top 10 finisher was Missy Allen of Model, Colo. Allen finished seventh in the barrel racing event, and she is only a freshman in high school. This was her first trip to the high school finals.
“It’s an adrenaline rush. You can control what’s going on, but you still have to trust your horse. I’ve been running on my mare for three years, and she ran a lot better this year,” she said.
Allen’s horse is an 11-year-old quarter horse named Rena. “She was given to us because they couldn’t handle her. My dad ranched on her for a little bit and then I turned her into a barrel horse,” she said.
Even though this was her first trip to the finals, Allen wasn’t nervous. At least not at first. “The first round wasn’t bad. I just had to make a good run. My second run I thought I would have a heart attack. I was 21st in the first round. It was nerve racking,” Allen said.
She got over her nerves and turned in a time good enough to put her in eighth going into the short round, a large jump from her 21st place standing after round one. “It was a great way to start my high school career,” she said. ❖