National Junior High School Finals Rodeo

Front row: Heston Harrison, Nicholas Lovins, Levi Sechrist, Karlie Tucker, Kenna McLemore, Chaley Hext, Laney Harper. Back row: Rodney Glenn, NJHSRA Director, Trevor Hale, Jordan Lovins, Hattie Haynes, Carli Hawkins, Kade Williams, Mason Appleton, Kate Kelley. Not pictured Caden Bunch (Photos by Ddee Haynes)

By Ddee Haynes

On June 18-24, 2017 in Lebanon, Tenn., more than 1,100 junior high school cowgirls and cowboys from 46 states, Australia, British Columbia and Canada gathered to compete in one of the world’s largest rodeos. The week included a total of 13 performances: six first round performances, six second round performances and the short round, also known as the short go.

Each contestant would compete two times, one time per round. The cowboys and cowgirls with the best average after two rounds of competition would earn their spot in the short go. Only the top 20 with the best average on two runs or two rides would qualify for the prestige of being in the final round. In timed events, the lower the average the better, while in rough stock the higher the average the better.

Events and contestants per event were as follows:

Barrel Racing – 166; Girls’ Break Away Roping – 155; Boys’ Break Away Roping – 145; Chute Dogging – 144; Tie Down Roping – 99; Boys’ Goat Tying – 142; Girls’ Goat Tying – 162; Junior Bull Riding – 112; Pole Bending – 167; Ribbon Roping – 147; Team Roping – 144; Bareback Steer Riding – 83; Saddle Bronc Steer Riding – 74 and Rifle Shooting – 103. To keep you from doing the math, a total of 1,843 entries were run during the first two rounds and an additional 280 from the short-go for a total of 2,125 entries. The rifle shooting was the only event with only one round and the top 20 going back for a short round.

The first performance was on Sunday, June 18, 2017. The weather was perfect and the arena dirt was great. In the early morning hours on Monday, the rain started and it did not stop until Tuesday mid-day.

The next three performances, Monday morning and afternoon and the Tuesday morning performances were run in the rain. The Tuesday evening and both Wednesday performances were dry, and the ground was great. However, the rain came back with a vengeance creating muddy, slop and, in my opinion, unfair arena conditions for the next five remaining performances. The rain finally moved out for good Saturday morning and crews were able to pull out all of the mud and replace it with dry dirt for the short round.

In 2016 the Oklahoma Junior High School Rodeo team was crowned the world champions. So going into 2017, team Oklahoma had a reputation as the team to beat, and each member did their best to defend their championship title.

Despite the mud and all the adverse conditions, team Oklahoma showed grit, heart and a whole lot of try. The Okie kids continued to win and/or place in each performance and in each round gathering team points along the way.

As I watched from the stands along with all the other Oklahoma mothers, fathers, siblings, grandparents and friends, my heart was filled with pride for each and every Oklahoma team member. While other kids from different states slowed their horses down, dismounted a little slower, or in one instance just gave up and stopped trying, I can honestly say not once did I see an Oklahoma cowboy or cowgirl not giving 100 percent. Those kids showed their true “cowboy” colors or red, white and never run blue!

At the end of rounds one and two, Team Oklahoma had 14 members in the top 20 qualify to move into the final round, “the short-go.” The Oklahomans had one or more qualifying members in each event with the exception of barrel racing, boys’ goat tying, and rifle shooting. With good ground to work on in the short round, Oklahoma turned it on and once again proved they were the team to beat, leaving it all in the arena!

When it was all said and done, the girls’ team claimed the National Champions title, the boys’ team secured second and the Oklahoma Team overall were the Reserve Champions.

Oklahoma team members who qualified for the short round and placed as national winners were Kade Williams, third in boys’ breakaway roping; Mason Appleton, sixth and Trevor Hale, tenth in tie-down roping; Mason Appleton and Kate Kelley third, Trevor Hale and Chaley Hext, fourth, Levi Sechrist and Carli Hawkins seventh in ribbon roping; Chaley Hext fifth and Kenna McLemore fifteenth in pole bending; brothers Jordan & Nicholas Lovins sixth in team roping; Caden Bunch, sixth in bareback steer riding; Trevor Hale, twelfth in chute dogging; Laney Harper, thirteenth, Carli Hawkins, fourteenth and Kate Kelley, sixteenth in girls’ breakaway roping; Heston Harrison, fifteenth in saddle bronc; Kate Kelley, sixth, Hattie Haynes (yes that is my youngest cowgirl) eighth, and Karlie Tucker thirteenth in girls’ goat tying; Caden Bunch twentieth in bull riding.

All-Around Cowgirls included National Champion Chaley Hext, Carli Hawkins, third and Kate Kelley, fourth. Trevor Hale was sixth in the All-Around Cowboy standings and he and his horse “Trouble with Kate” were the boys’ American Quarter Horse of the year winners.

Until next time… One proud Oklahoma rodeo mom!