Trading a cowboy hat for a mortarboard
Several Nebraska high school rodeo athletes finish as valedictorians, salutatorians of their classes
for the Adams County Ag Society
HASTINGS, Neb. — In the last few weeks, the seniors among the Nebraska State High School Rodeo athletes exchanged cowboy hats for mortarboard hats, and several of them graduated at the top of their classes.
Dalton Kunkee, Callaway; Brooke McCully, Mullen; Rylee Naprstek, Gothenburg; Dean Schroder, Taylor; Jessica Stevens, Creighton; Faith Storer, Arthur; and Kaci Wickersham, Verdigre, all graduated as either valedictorians or salutatorians.
Kunkee finished as valedictorian of Callaway High School. Throughout his high school career, he was involved in FFA, (two years as president), One Acts (three years with the lead role), speech, National Honor Society, football and wrestling.
He will attend McCook Community College with full tuition paid, thanks to an academic scholarship.
In high school rodeo, he competes in the team roping and steer wrestling and is scheduled to make his fourth trip to the Nebraska State High School Finals Rodeo again this year, as he’s ranked in the top 10 in both of his events. He is a 2021 recipient of the Broc Cresta Memorial Scholarship.
He is the son of Dean and Angie Kunkee.
Brooke McCully graduated as valedictorian of Mullen High School.
During high school, the cowgirl was a four-year letter winner in volleyball and basketball and a three-year letter winner in track (losing a year, due to the pandemic). She was a member of the National Honor Society.
She competes in the breakaway roping, pole bending, barrel racing and team roping and, as a sophomore, qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo in the breakaway. She’s currently ranked in the top 10 in the barrels and the poles and is poised to qualify for her fourth state high school finals rodeo.
This fall, her rodeo career will be on hold as she plays basketball for Chadron State College. She will major in business accounting and has chosen to put rodeo on the back burner till college is over. She joins her older sister, Brittni, on the basketball team.
She is the daughter of Brad and Traci McCully.
Rylee Naprstek, Gothenburg, graduated as valedictorian of Gothenburg High School with a 4.0 GPA.
In high school, she was involved in the Interact Club, student council, the school musical, the speech team, one acts, basketball for two years, FFA, Sigma Phi Beta, pep club, and National Honor Society.
This fall, she will attend Chadron State College on a Gold Presidential Scholarship, which will cover her entire tuition. Naprstek plans on studying elementary education.
A breakaway roper, team roper and goat tyer, she has qualified for the state high school finals rodeo all three years and is headed to her fourth qualification this June in Hastings.
She is the daughter of Chad and Renee Naprstek.
Dean Schroder, the son of John and Belinda Schroder, finished his high school career as valedictorian at Loup County High School with a 4.0 GPA.
The Taylor, Neb., cowboy played football for four years and wrestled for three. He was involved in student council, FFA, and the National Honor Society.
In high school rodeo, he was a saddle bronc rider and a team roper and qualified for the state finals all three years. He’s on track to be in Hastings June 17-19 for this year’s finals as well.
He has earned a President’s Scholarship to Chadron State College, where he will rodeo collegiately and work towards a rangeland management degree.
Creighton Community High School’s Jessica Stevens finished as salutatorian of her class, with a 4.2 GPA.
The Creighton, Neb. cowgirl was involved in FFA, FCCLA, HOSA (Health Occupations Students of America), Teammates, speech, and participated in cross country, basketball and track.
Through all four years of high school, Stevens placed in the HOSA statewide contests and this year, will compete at the international contest.
In rodeo, she competes in the breakaway, team roping and goat tying and finished the 2019-2020 rodeo season as reserve champion at the national level in the goat tying. She is set to qualify for her fourth state finals next month, and is currently ranked first in the goat tying in the state.
Stevens has received full tuition through academic and rodeo scholarships to attend Dawson Community College in Glendive, Mont., where she will work towards two degrees: animal science and business, and farm and ranch management.
She is the daughter of Gene Stevens and Heather and Travis Stacken.
Faith Storer, Arthur, completed her high school career as salutatorian of the Arthur County High School Class of 2021, with a GPA of 4.049.
In high school, she was student body president of the Nebraska State High School Rodeo Association, was captain of the basketball and volleyball teams, and was involved in FFA and National Honor Society. She also participated in track.
She earned early acceptance to the Bryan College of Health nursing program, which guarantees her, after two successful years of college at Bryan, acceptance into the nursing program at Bryan, which is located in Lincoln.
The cowgirl competes in the breakaway roping, team roping and girls cutting and has competed at the National High School Finals Rodeo two years. She’s on track for her fourth state finals this year, currently sitting first in the girls cutting standings.
She is the daughter of Jared and Angie Storer.
Kaci Wickersham, Verdigre, Neb., is co-valedictorian of Summerland High School at Orchard, with a 4.0 GPA.
The cowgirl, who competes in the breakaway roping and goat tying, was in cross country, track, band, choir, journalism, FFA and National Honor Society. She qualified for the state high school finals rodeo twice and is on track to be there again this June.
She will attend Chadron State College with full tuition paid, and will study agribusiness.
She is the daughter of Darin and Kerry Wickersham.
The Nebraska State High School Finals Rodeo will take place in Hastings at the Adams County Fairgrounds June 17-19. The top 30 high school contestants in each event (the top 60 in the team roping) qualify; after state finals determines the winners, the top four in each event go on to the National High School Finals Rodeo, this year held in Lincoln July 18-24.
The state finals performances are June 17 at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.; June 18 at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., and the finals on June 19 at 1 p.m.
For more information, visit AdamsCountyFairgrounds.com or hsrodeo-nebraska.com, or call (402) 462-3247.
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