National High School Rodeo Finals is nearly here | TSLN.com

National High School Rodeo Finals is nearly here

TSLN photos by Aaron NelsonKristi Steffes of Vale, SD competes during a Pole Bending portion of the 2009 SD High School Rodeo Finals. She was named Rookie Cowgirl at the Finals and will be competing in the Pole Bending event at Nationals.

The 61st annual National High School Rodeo Finals is just around the corner for the contestants who qualified to compete at Farmington, NM. July 16 is the first day of check-in at the finals, with the Queen competition starting on July 17th. Rodeo performances begin on July 19 and run through July 25.

The 13 performances of the National High School finals is necessary to accommodate two go-arounds and a short-go for over 1,500 contestants. There are contestants from 41 states, five Canadian provinces, and Australia, with 10,500 members of NHSRA competing at 1,100 sanctioned High School rodeos to qualify for Nationals.

Besides rodeo performances, the contestants are offered an array of other activities while at Nationals. There are dances, volleyball tournaments, golf tournaments, NRA shooting competitions with light rifle and shotgun, a Special Kids rodeo, trade show, college fair, and seminars for rough stock, calf roping, barrel racing, pro rodeo, team roping, and horse shoeing.

The NHSRA gives out Scholarships and awards to the deserving competitors at the end of the rodeo to the tune of $650,000. Contestants fill out applications, give interviews and work very hard to get the scholarships, which not only promote rodeo but high standards of academic achievement and attitude.

The top four at the end of each state finals are qualified to go to Farmington. Some events may have five qualifiers due to a tie in points achieved throughout the season.

The Nationals levels the playing field, though, as there are no points carried into the finals, and the “sudden death” aspect really cranks up the competition.

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Of course, many contestants are traveling to Farmington from this region, and some of them for the first time. One of those is Kristi Steffes of Vale, SD, who is going to the Nationals in the Pole Bending. Kristi actually placed fifth in the event following the Finals but earned a trip to New Mexico after Shelby Thompson opted out of attending.

Kristi was named Rookie All-Around Cowgirl at the SDSHR in June, and was also at state in Breakaway, Team Roping, Goat Tying, and Barrel Racing, which she made the short-go in as well. This talented multi-event competitor also competes in 4-H and Little Britches Rodeo, as well as Girls Basketball and Volleyball at Sturgis Brown High School.

A ranch girl, Kristi helps her folks on their place southwest of Vale, and spends a lot of time keeping her horses fit and practicing. Her sister Nikki is also on the ranch, and is a College Rodeo competitor.

“My sister is always helping and encouraging me. She shows me new things so that I can do better,” says Kristi. “My mom and dad both help me a lot too. I just can’t thank them enough for all they’ve done for me.”

The whole family is going to the finals, and Kristi says with a giggle, “I think my sister’s almost as excited as I am about going.” Having been to the Nationals before with her older sister, Kristi is aware of the schedule and pressure at the finals.

“My goal is to just have fun,” said Kristi. “You have to remember that if you have a bad run, you have to move on so you don’t mess up your next run.” That focus is necessary when a contestant works so many events at a rodeo, as Kristi does.

All-Around Cowboy Jace Melvin of Ft. Pierre, SD is another multi event cowboy going to the finals. He went to state in Cattle Cutting, Team Roping, Tie Down Roping, and Steer Wrestling, making the short-go in the last two. He is in the Steer Wrestling at Nationals.

Besides rodeo, Jace, who will be a junior at Ft. Pierre High School in the fall, is involved in wrestling and has played football. He also helps at home where he works in the hay field and rides some colts. Jace is also involved in Cowboy Church and Youth Group activities. He stressed, “Without the Lord, I wouldn’t have anything I’ve been blessed with.

“At the finals on Sunday (at state), I was more nervous than I’ve ever been, but went to church that morning and then I felt that everything would work out as planned, no matter what happened at the rodeo,” Jace continued. “I’ve been blessed with some very, very nice horses. Both my calf roping and steer wrestling horses are ones we raised. They’re really good horses and I’ve been so fortunate to have my family helping train them.”

The 61st annual National High School Rodeo Finals is just around the corner for the contestants who qualified to compete at Farmington, NM. July 16 is the first day of check-in at the finals, with the Queen competition starting on July 17th. Rodeo performances begin on July 19 and run through July 25.

The 13 performances of the National High School finals is necessary to accommodate two go-arounds and a short-go for over 1,500 contestants. There are contestants from 41 states, five Canadian provinces, and Australia, with 10,500 members of NHSRA competing at 1,100 sanctioned High School rodeos to qualify for Nationals.

Besides rodeo performances, the contestants are offered an array of other activities while at Nationals. There are dances, volleyball tournaments, golf tournaments, NRA shooting competitions with light rifle and shotgun, a Special Kids rodeo, trade show, college fair, and seminars for rough stock, calf roping, barrel racing, pro rodeo, team roping, and horse shoeing.

The NHSRA gives out Scholarships and awards to the deserving competitors at the end of the rodeo to the tune of $650,000. Contestants fill out applications, give interviews and work very hard to get the scholarships, which not only promote rodeo but high standards of academic achievement and attitude.

The top four at the end of each state finals are qualified to go to Farmington. Some events may have five qualifiers due to a tie in points achieved throughout the season.

The Nationals levels the playing field, though, as there are no points carried into the finals, and the “sudden death” aspect really cranks up the competition.

Of course, many contestants are traveling to Farmington from this region, and some of them for the first time. One of those is Kristi Steffes of Vale, SD, who is going to the Nationals in the Pole Bending. Kristi actually placed fifth in the event following the Finals but earned a trip to New Mexico after Shelby Thompson opted out of attending.

Kristi was named Rookie All-Around Cowgirl at the SDSHR in June, and was also at state in Breakaway, Team Roping, Goat Tying, and Barrel Racing, which she made the short-go in as well. This talented multi-event competitor also competes in 4-H and Little Britches Rodeo, as well as Girls Basketball and Volleyball at Sturgis Brown High School.

A ranch girl, Kristi helps her folks on their place southwest of Vale, and spends a lot of time keeping her horses fit and practicing. Her sister Nikki is also on the ranch, and is a College Rodeo competitor.

“My sister is always helping and encouraging me. She shows me new things so that I can do better,” says Kristi. “My mom and dad both help me a lot too. I just can’t thank them enough for all they’ve done for me.”

The whole family is going to the finals, and Kristi says with a giggle, “I think my sister’s almost as excited as I am about going.” Having been to the Nationals before with her older sister, Kristi is aware of the schedule and pressure at the finals.

“My goal is to just have fun,” said Kristi. “You have to remember that if you have a bad run, you have to move on so you don’t mess up your next run.” That focus is necessary when a contestant works so many events at a rodeo, as Kristi does.

All-Around Cowboy Jace Melvin of Ft. Pierre, SD is another multi event cowboy going to the finals. He went to state in Cattle Cutting, Team Roping, Tie Down Roping, and Steer Wrestling, making the short-go in the last two. He is in the Steer Wrestling at Nationals.

Besides rodeo, Jace, who will be a junior at Ft. Pierre High School in the fall, is involved in wrestling and has played football. He also helps at home where he works in the hay field and rides some colts. Jace is also involved in Cowboy Church and Youth Group activities. He stressed, “Without the Lord, I wouldn’t have anything I’ve been blessed with.

“At the finals on Sunday (at state), I was more nervous than I’ve ever been, but went to church that morning and then I felt that everything would work out as planned, no matter what happened at the rodeo,” Jace continued. “I’ve been blessed with some very, very nice horses. Both my calf roping and steer wrestling horses are ones we raised. They’re really good horses and I’ve been so fortunate to have my family helping train them.”

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