Nebraska youth qualify for NHSFR competition

HASTINGS, Neb. — The Nebraska High School Rodeo season wrapped up with the high school finals in Hastings at the Adams County Fairgrounds. Rodeo athletes from across the Cornhusker State competed in two go-rounds on June 10-11 and the short go-round on June 12. The top four contestants in each of 15 events were determined, and they will go on to compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyo., July 17-23, 2022.

The 2021-2022 champions are Spencer Denaeyer, Mullen (bareback riding); Makayla Wray, Ord (pole bending and breakaway roping); Coy Johnston, Stapleton (steer wrestling); Monte Bailey, Seneca (saddle bronc riding); Sid Miller, Merna (tie-down roping); Libby Hegeman, Arlington (goat tying); Brent Charlton, North Platte and Jate Saults, Big Springs (team roping, header and heeler); Anna Clark, Thedford (barrel racing); Cooper Kursave, Arcadia (bull riding); Tatum Olson, Bloomfield (reined cow horse); Bo Bushhousen, St. Libory (boys cutting); Whitney Jennings, Seneca (girls cutting); Cale Buss, Atkinson (light rifle) and Tanner Ellis, Minden (trap shooting ).

Boys rookie of the year went to Koltdyn Heath, Minden, and girls rookie of the year is Reagan McIntyre, Grand Island. McIntyre also won the girls’ all-around title; for the second year, Cooper Bass, Brewster, is the year-end boys all-around champion.

Kylie Lancaster, Hastings, was crowned as the 2022-2023 Miss Nebraska High School Rodeo queen.


The following are synopses of some of the champions.

Pole Bending and Breakaway champion: Makayla Wray, Ord

Wray came into her junior year of state finals in second and third place in her three events, and left a state champion in two of them.

Makayla Wray, Ord, won the pole bending title for the 2021-2022 season; she is also the breakaway roping champion. Photo by Jill Saults

The 17-year-old cowgirl, a soon-to-be senior at Ord High School this fall, called her three days at state finals, “amazing.” She was cheering for her friend Gracey Taylor in the poles, but when Taylor knocked over a pole to get a five-second penalty in the short round, it opened the door for Wray.

“My heart broke for her, but I thought, ‘there’s a chance (for Wray to win the year-end title). Then I went and knocked down a pole.” But there was no time for reflection; she had to compete in the breakaway roping next. “You have to have a short memory in rodeo,” she said.

The daughter of Mark and Denise Wray, Makayla will be vice-president of her school’s FFA chapter this fall, is a member of the National Honor Society, was just elected student president of the Nebraska State High School Rodeo Association, and plays basketball. She has a 4.0 GPA.

She has also qualified for the NHSFR in the team roping; this is her first trip to nationals.

Bareback riding champion – Spencer Denaeyer, Seneca

For the second year in a row, Denaeyer took home the state saddle bronc riding title.

The 18-year-old, a 2022 graduate of Mullen High School, didn’t do well at the 2021 NHSFR.

“Last year, I went in hot-headed, thinking I was the state champ, I was going to (nationals), and things were going to be all right.” He didn’t make the short go at the nationals; his goals are higher this year. “I need to have my hammer cocked, and be ready to go. My goal is to win it.”

He will attend Odessa (Texas) College this fall on a rodeo scholarship and compete collegiately, majoring in ag technology.

He is the son of Mark and Bree Bailey.

Steer wrestling champion – Coy Johnston, Stapleton

Johnston comes from a long line of steer wrestlers, and now he’s won his first state title.

The Stapleton cowboy finished last year’s season in second place, behind his good friend and fellow steer wrestler Dane Pokorny; the two cowboys switched spots this year, with Pokorny finishing as reserve champion.

For Sunday’s short round, he gave it his all. “I had to make a good run today,” he said. “I just went out there, not safetying up or anything, and beat Dane by a half-point.” There’s no animosity between the two; “we are really good friends,” Johnston said.

Johnston’s dad Jason was a steer wrestler, as were his uncles, Jeff, Chad and Joel. “If you’re a Johnston,” he joked, “you’re going to be a steer wrestler.”

This fall, Johnston will be a senior at Stapleton High School. He plays football and basketball and is an FFA member.

He is the son of Jason and Jennifer Johnston.

Saddle bronc riding champion: Monte Bailey, Hyannis

Hyannis cowboy Monte Bailey won the saddle bronc riding title.

The 2022 Hyannis High School graduate was the only cowboy who made three qualified rides.

He is coming off a knee injury from the football season, where he tore the meniscus and nearly pulled the ligaments off the bone.

“I hurt my knee a while back, so it was a little iffy on my first horse,” he said. “But I just let it all fly and left it out there, and it was pretty fun.” His third ride, in the short round, “wasn’t the prettiest one, but I got through it.”

He will compete for Montana State University in Bozeman this fall on a rodeo scholarship while he attends Gallatin College, majoring in carpentry.

He is the son of Ben and Shelly Bailey.

Team roping champions – Brent Charlton, North Platte (header) and Jate Saults, Big Springs (heeler)

Brent Charlton and Jate Saults teamed up for their first state title in the team roping.

The duo has roped together the past three years; Charlton just finished his junior year at Stapleton High School; Saults is a 2022 graduate of South Platte High School.

Both cowboys also competed in the tie-down roping, and Saults in the light rifle shooting.

This fall, Saults will attend Western Oklahoma State University in Altus on a rodeo scholarship, majoring in ag business. He is the son of Scott and Jill Saults. He has also qualified for nationals in the light rifle.

Brent Charlton, North Platte, and Jate Saults, Big Springs, combined to win the team roping title for the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association. Photo by Jill Saults

Charlton, at Stapleton High School, plays basketball and is on the honor roll. He is the son of Philip and Sonya Charlton.

Barrel racing champion – Anna Clark, Thedford

Clark is just a freshman, but she finished her first year of high school rodeo with a bang.

The 15-year-old cowgirl from Thedford won the barrel racing state title.

In the first round, she hit a barrel, adding a 5-second penalty to her time. “I came into the arena, and we were going pretty fast, and I remember thinking, oh, no, we’re going to blow by this barrel. So I checked (her mare) up and I shouldn’t have.” They knocked over the first barrel.

But she redeemed herself, winning the second and third rounds “and today we became state champions,” she said, beaming.

“I wanted this all season, and I’ve worked for it a lot,” she said. “It feels good. It feels really good.”

She is the daughter of Adam and Alicia Clark.

For complete results, visit For more information on the state finals and the NHSFR, and


Nebraska high school qualifiers for the 2022 National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyo., July 17-23.

Bareback riding

Champion: Spencer Denayer, Seneca

2. Tate Miller, Springview

3. Koltdyn Heath, Minden

4. Tanner Drueke, Sutherland

Alternate: Cinch Kiger, Overton

Barrel racing

Champion: Anna Clark, Thedford

2. Hailey Witte, Crookston

3. Taci Flinn, Arcadia

4. Camryn Kocian, Brainard

Alternate: Mekenna Fisher, Hershey

Boys cutting:

Champion: Bo Bushhousen, St. Libory

2. Cooper Bass, Brewster

3. Trey Vance, Inavale

4. Devin Konicek, Burwell

Alternate: Dakota Storer, Arthur

Breakaway roping

Champion: Makayla Wray, Ord

2. Reagan McIntyre, Grand Island

3. Whitney Jennings, Seneca

4. Shayda Vaughn, Hershey

Alternate: Kieley Walz, Ainsworth

Bull riding:

Champion:. Cooper Kursave, Arcadia

2. Hunter Boydston, Grover, Colo.

3. Jason Ducker-Kursave, Arcadia

4. Tanner Drueke, Sutherland

Alternate: Brady Painter, Ainsworth

Girls cutting:

Champion: Whitney Jennings, Seneca

2. Mekenna Fisher, Hershey

3. Brooke Forre, Newman Grove

4. Emma Pearson, Broken Bow

Alternate: Peyton Fisher, Hershey

Goat tying:

Champion:. Libby Hegeman, Arlington

2. Reagan McIntyre, Grand Island

3. Ashlyn Henderson, Hyannis

4. Emma Warren, Thedford

Alternate: Laney Hoier, Herman

Pole bending

Champion: Makayla Wray, Ord

2. Gracey Taylor, Valentine

3. Reagan McIntyre, Grand Island

4. Raina Swanson, Genoa

Alternate: Emma Pearson, Broken Bow

Reined cow horse

Champion: Tatum Olson, Bloomfield

2. Charlie Bortner, McCook

3. Tucker Gillespie, McCook

4. Tate Talkington, Scottsbluff

Alternate: Jayda Meyring, Alliance

Saddle bronc riding

Champion: Monte Bailey, Lakeside

2. Leif Meidell, Harrison

3. Augustus Painter, Ainsworth

4. Carson Jones, Neligh

Alternate: Everett Blackburn, Bartlett

Steer wrestling

Champion: Coy Johnston, Stapleton

2. Dane Pokorny, Stapleton

3. Wyatt Reichenberg, Harrisburg

4. Taydon Gorsuch, Gering

Alternate: Beau Wiebelhaus, Springview

Team roping

Champions: Brent Charlton, North Platte, and Jate Saults, Big Springs

2. Cooper Bass, Brewster and Zack Bradley, Brewster

3. Makayla Wray, Ord and Brady Renner, Ericson

4. Carter Anderson, Merriman and Sage Schrunk, Valentine

Tie-down roping

Champion: Sid Miller, Merna

2. Jate Saults, Big Springs

3. Cooper Phillips, Burwell

4. Carter Anderson, Merriman

Alternate: Seth Glass, Central City

All results unofficial.


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