Wyo high school students compete at state finalsWritten by Christy Martinez
Douglas – As the National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette draws near, this weekend Wyoming’s high school competitors are busy making as many points as they can at the Wyoming High School Rodeo Finals in hopes of qualifying for nationals.
The finals rodeo, which runs June 23-26 at the Wyoming State Fairgrounds in Douglas and is sponsored by the American Legion, has a few less entries this year, which Director Dixie Huxtable attributes to high fuel prices and the economy, but otherwise she says the rodeo’s set to continue as usual.
Of the level of competition at the Wyoming High School Rodeo Finals compared to regular season rodeos, Wiley King of Casper says everyone steps up their intensity.
“They’re ready to perform this weekend, so you have to be on top of your game to win here,” says Wiley, who just completed his junior year at Kelly Walsh High School and who will compete in his third finals this year.
“Here at the finals we win double the points for every go-round we win, and the top four point-holders in the state get to go to nationals, and that’s what everyone is aiming for,” he adds. “If we win a go-round here we get 20 points, versus at regular rodeos where we only get 10.”
Wiley competes in bull riding and saddle broncs, and last year he barely fell short of making the National High School Finals Rodeo in both events.
Of how he became involved in the sport of rodeo, Wiley says he started riding steers when he was around 12 years old, and before that had participated in mutton busting. Both of those events led to his interest in bull riding.
“My dad was a bareback rider, and my grandpa was a bull rider, so we’ve always been around rodeo, but we weren’t a big rodeo family until recently, when it’s become a part of us,” he explains.
Wiley’s sister Kellee King is also competing at the finals in Douglas this summer; her events are barrel racing and goat tying.
“My brother started to rodeo about six years ago, and I went to the rodeos and saw everyone competing, and thought it looked like a lot of fun,” says Kellee, who recently finished her sophomore year at Kelly Walsh High School, of how she became involved.
“I started barrel racing because it was the typical sport for girls to do, but what I really love is goat tying,” says Kelly, who is at her second finals.
To prepare for competition, Kellee says she spends time riding and working with her horse, and not always in the arena. This year she’s running two new horses in both of her events.
“I spend a lot of days in the pasture, focusing on clicking with my horse,” she says. “Practicing for goat tying includes a lot of ground work, and both events involve exercising and eating right, too.”
After the first go-round at the Thursday morning performance on June 23, Kellee says she had a good get-off on her goat horse, and that she took fifth in barrels out of 20 competitors.
Of what she enjoys about the days spent at Wyoming’s state finals, Kellee says she likes the experience of rodeo, as well as the friendships that come out of it and the practice she gets with her horses through competing.
Of his rodeo future, Wiley says he will definitely stick with the sport through college, and that he hopes to go to school on a rodeo scholarship.
“If it works out, I’ll go on to pro rodeo, but if not, I’ll use the degree and go to work,” he notes.