For some, it will be their first time in the national arena. For others, they’re old hands.
Either way you slice it, area high school cowboys and cowgirls who make up a part of team Wyoming will take on the world at the 65th Annual National High School Finals Rodeo starting Sunday at the Sweetwater Events Complex in Rock Springs.
For bareback rider Justin Kissack of Gillette, this is his second go-round at what is considered the largest rodeo in the world. He expects to take some of that experience into the final rodeo of his high school career.
“I just want to go and cover my first two horses and get to the short-go. But I’ll watch every bareback performance down there,” said Kissack, who is headed to Gillette College to rodeo next fall. “I like watching other people’s styles or other people’s ways. Maybe there’s something I’d like to pick up on and try.”
Rozet cowgirl Lexi Hamm also has been to the show before and competed a couple of times in the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Gallup, N.M.
It’s a good exposure and a chance to see friends and meet new people. It is also a good chance to put Voxy through her paces in the national arena.
“The national rodeo is a lot of fun and good experience to be around that many kids for that long,” said Hamm, who finished 39th in in the NHSFR a year ago. “It’s kind of cool to see where you’re at against other kids from throughout the nation.”
The Gillette area cowboys and cowgirls take solid credentials into the national spotlight.
Gillette cowboys Trase Johnson (boys cutting), Kissack (barebacks) and Faith Carson of Arvada (girls cutting) go in as Wyoming state champions in their events.
Hamm won a saddle for the season points average in cutting.
Yep, it’s a big deal and they are ready to let it fly.
“You pretty much just try to go down and do what you practice,” Hamm said. “I’ve been focusing on keeping my mare active.
“She tends to get long on one side and short on the other. So we’ve been keeping her tuned so she’s looking good.”
Ty Bertrand (bull riding) and Casey Beck (boys cutting) of Gillette, Casey Rae Reimler of Rozet (breakaway roping) and Amelia Thrush of Gillette (light rifle) will compete for the first time in the national rodeo.
“It’s quite a privilege to get to go to nationals and represent your state,” Beck said. “I’m really going to focus on making the short-go. There’s 200-and-some cutters, so to make the short-go means that all my hard work will pay off.”
Not all of the competition takes place in the rodeo arena. Thrush will give it her best shot on Tuesday at the Green River Shooting Club.
“I look forward to see what I’m up against in the shooting sports,” said Thrush, who got a new scope last week. “I won the state championship with an open-sited rifle. Now that I have a scope, I can be a lot more competitive. I look forward to see how well I can shoot.”
The NHSFR features more than 1,500 contestants from 41 states and five Canadian Provinces and Australia in 12 different events.
The final round July 19 will be televised nationally as a part of the Cinch Town Tour telecast series on RFD-TV.
Rodeo fans also can watch live broadcasts of each performance online at NHSRA.com.
When they compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo
Bareback riding: Justin Kissack, Gillette, Tuesday morning, Thursday evening
Bull riding: Ty Bertrand, Gillette, Tuesday evening., Thursday morning.; Bryce Burnell, Arvada, Tuesday morning, Thursday evening
Air rifle: Amelia Thrush, Gillette, Tuesday, at the Green River Shooting Club
Girls cutting: Faith Carson, Arvada, Monday evening., Friday morning; Lexi Hamm, Rozet, Tuesday morning, Thursday evening
Boys cutting: Trase Johnson, Gillette, Tuesday evening, Thursday morning; Casey Beck, Gillette, Monday evening, Friday morning
Breakaway roping: Casey Rae Reimler, Rozet, Monday morning, Friday evening
Online results: NHSRA.org