Over 200 future rodeo stars saddled up their horses and settled their hats down low for what turned out to be a weekend of wild rides from the chutes all the way to the alley. The Alberta High School Rodeo Finals were held from June 8 to 11.
Events that were encompassed in the rodeo finals were: bull riding, bareback riding, barrel racing, cutting, breakaway roping, goat tying, pole bending, saddle bronc riding, tie down roping, steer wrestling, and team roping.
Incorporated in the event were two different sets of rodeo competitions. There was the Ponoka Finals, which included only the points riders earned over the course of the finals, and there was the rodeo provincials, which took into account all points the riders had earned over the season.
Many local cowboys and girls were able to hold their own in both competition areas amid a muddy sea of similar hats and chaps.
Cawl Braithwaite from Bluffton placed second in the bull riding and will complete at the National High School Rodeo finals in Wyoming.
Kennedy Smith, a Grade 9 rookie to high school rodeo, placed fourth overall in the barrel racing. She rode her 19-year-old bucksin, Hickory, who took care of her in the mud.
Sam Smith will represent Alberta in the barrel racing in the Silver State Rodeo in Winnemucca, Nevada. Cole Nichlson earned a spot in the bareback riding, but won’t be able to compete after re-injuring his collarbone at the finals.
For the Ponoka Finals, Jessa Galloway placed second in pole bending, third in goat tying and sixth in breakaway roping; Tynelle Clemmer came in seventh in goat tying; Logan and Kelly Bonnett placed fifth in the team roping event; and Keely also placed fourth in tie down roping.
For the provincials, Logan and Keely Bonnett placed sixth for their team roping, Galloway placed sixth in pole bending and was named Girls All Around champion, finishing with 440 points. Sheldon Stretch placed first in the cutting event and Nick Smith placed 10th in steer wrestling.
However, it’s not all about points to these boys and girls. What they do gets them wet, it gets them muddy, and it gets them hurt, but they have a passion for it, and that keeps a smile on their face through it all.
Many of the season’s top bull riders where thrown to the ground early but they picked themselves up, climbed out of the arena and eagerly awaited their next ride. And it wasn’t just the riders who deal with the bulls. Bullfighters danced in and out of hooves, protecting the bull riders. At the end of his ride, one bull rider made sure to shake the hands of both bullfighters.
Layton Green out of Meeting Creek was named saddle bronc champion and he couldn’t imagine a better way to end his high school rodeo career.
“It went good. I just did what I could on the horse,” Green said about his ineffable last rides.
For Ponoka native Jessa Galloway this was her last high school rodeo provincials too. In the fall she’ll head down to Hobbs, MN for college and will join the rodeo team there.
“It’s my passion,” Galloway said. Before she rides Galloway never feels nervous. “What I felt is ready.”
Over the course of the rodeo Galloway rode Joker for goat tying and Girlfriend for pole bending.
Levi Lloyd, of Rimbey, won the steer wrestling championship title. He’ll be heading to Montana to take welding in the fall but he says post-secondary isn’t the end of his rodeo career either. He plans on steer wresting in many CPRA rodeos in the future.
Lloyd named steer wrestling as his favorite event; his father competed in the event, as do many of his friends.
“It’s great, but really stressful.”
Even though these three rodeo stars came out on top this weekend it isn’t going to and hasn’t always been that way. But Lloyd knows that one bad ride isn’t the end.
“There’s always another rodeo.”
The top two riders from the Alberta High School Provincial Finals:
1) Kody Lamb- Sherwood Park
2) Tanner Young- Fairview
1) Tara Wilkinson- Arrowwood
2) Lindsay Woolsey- Nanton
1) Sheldon Stretch- Ponoka
2) Sloan Smith- Blackie
1) Darby Wilkinson- Arrowwod
2) Susan Gulick- Wetaskiwin
1) Brant Jones- Consort
2) Cawl Braithwaite- Bluffton
1) Tamera Davies- Rocky Mountain House
2) Rylee Steiman- Red Deer
1) Dana Spizke- Innisfail
2) Natalie Bevans- Cardston
1) Rachel Masden- Fort Saskatchewan
2) Sydney Daines- Innisfail
1) Layton Green- Meeting Creek
2) Zeke Thurston- Big Valley
1) Levi Lloyd- Rimbey
2) Shane Krywcun- Langdon
1) Clint Weston- Cardston, AB and Kyle Lucas- Carstairs
2) Trey Gallais- Red Deer, AB and Devin Wigemyr- Brooks
Tie Down Roping
1) Kolton Schmidt- Barrhead
2) Logan Bird- Nanton
By Treena Mielke and Amelia Naismith