Western athletes excel at 2011 NHSFR
Lance Creek, Wyo.
The 2011 National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) was held July 18-24 in Gillette, Wyo. Over 1,500 student athletes competed in 13 events, and when the dust settled, the western U.S. claimed multiple top 10 finishers and national champions.
“It’s been a crazy ride this year – a week before our state finals I didn’t have a horse to show, because this January I had to put down my good show horse,” said O’Neill, Neb., native Shelby Sanford, who finished eighth in the nation in Girls Cutting.
“That was really nerve wracking, but trainer Tracy Barton let me show Doublemint Cash in our state finals and at the NHSFR. I was able to win state on him, and we went in and got scores of 2.09, 2.12 and 2.125 at the national finals. It was such a highlight to have Tracy offer me such a great horse to show, and then marking such good scores on a horse I’ve only shown a half dozen times made it better,” added Sanford.
Sanford graduated in May, and plans to continue her rodeo career at the college level this fall while pursuing a double major in biology and nursing, and minors in political science and media.
“I will compete in Breakaway for sure, and possibly team roping and barrel racing as well. After my first year in college I also plan on running for a Regional Director position. I want to know more about the rules, regulations, and ‘behind the scenes,’ aspects of the sport while also bringing more attention to college rodeo,” she explained.
Highmore, S.D., high school junior Drew Cowan finished third in the average in Tie-Down Roping, after ending up fourth in the first round and second in round two.
“It’s a lot of fun, and my dad always keeps good horses under us, which makes it even more fun,” said Cowan. “We raise our own horses, and enjoy being able to compete on what we’ve raised.”
“The NHSFR is a well run rodeo, and it was a lot of fun to compete against all the states that were there. They also bring in people from all around the country to put it on, and those people do a great job. The calves they had were good and the cutting cattle were great. I drew two really good calves, and used them up getting to third in the average,” he said of his experience this year.
Cowan said another highlight of his rodeo career has been his cutting horse winning the South Dakota state finals four times. “That’s something you don’t see very often,” he noted.
For next year Cowan plans to keep practicing and building his confidence through competing in both high school and amateur rodeos. While he has no definite college or major picked for after high school, he said he will definitely pursue a college rodeo career.
Lance Creek, Wyo., native and Saddle Bronc competitor Colton Miller also made a strong showing at the NHSFR this year, finishing seventh in the average.
“It was fun. I wish it could have turned out better in terms of where I placed, but it could have been a lot worse,” noted Miller. “It was pretty exciting to win the first go, and getting second in the short go. I’m pretty sure I had the highest marked ride of the finals, with an 84 in the first go, and that was cool too.”
“I like that there are so many people, and the competition comes from all over,” said Miller of what he enjoys about competing at the NHSFR. “You don’t really know what to expect, or what kind of horse you’re going to draw.”
“I do think the Wyoming high school rodeo (bucking) horses are a lot ranker. There were a lot of horses that just ran off at the finals, and here in Wyoming we have good horses from contractors like Powder River, Burches and Burns Rodeo, and they all buck hard,” added Miller of the event in comparison to other rodeos he attends each season.
Miller graduated this spring, and plans to rodeo and major in welding at Riverton this fall. He explained that his plan is to attend as many rodeos as he can this summer in preparation for his college rodeo career.
“What I like most about rodeo is how it’s pretty much you against your horse. There isn’t a rivalry against another person, and everyone helps everyone out,” said Miller, adding his family and JD Hamaker helped him get started and continue to support his rodeo endeavors.
Junior Ty Wallace of Collbran, Colo., finished third in the average in Bull Riding after scoring 69 points in his first round and 81 points in his second round ride.
“This is the best I’ve ever done at the NHSFR. I was bucked off both my long round bulls the first year I competed, then last year rode one long go bull, and this year made it to the short go and ended up third in the nation,” explained Wallace, adding he drew really good bulls in all three rounds.
“Gillette has a really good set of facilities, they’re really organized and it’s a well run rodeo,” said Wallace of the NHSFR. “The stock was a little uneven, but if you drew a good one you did well.”
“I’ll probably do some CPRA (Colorado Pro-Rodeo Association) rodeos and some bull riding events this summer, then do more high school rodeos in the fall, then make it back to the finals and hopefully win it next year,” said Wallace of his upcoming plans.
“I’ve always ridden bulls since I was really little, and was naturally talented at it. I’ve accomplished a lot, and also know you have to work hard for what you want in this sport. My family also always comes to watch, and they support me a lot in what I do,” noted Wallace.
“Colorado pretty much made the short round in everything but Cutting and Tie-Down, and we won a couple national titles this year. We did really well as a team, and that was great,” concluded Wallace of his 2011 NHSFR experience.
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