FULL OF PROMISE: The next generation of rodeo is alive and well
The next generation of rodeo is alive and well.
Youth rodeo was the focus of the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo® in Rapid City on Sunday, Febr. 1, with 124 high school rodeo athletes from across South Dakota competing in the annual Wrangler 20X rodeo. The top three contestants in each region, from all four S.D. high school regions, were invited. Four $500 scholarships were won by seniors, and the winner of each event received a trophy buckle.
The cowboy winning the tie-down roping was Carson Johnston from Elm Springs. Johnston, a senior at Wall High School, had a time of 17.7 seconds, not a necessarily a time to brag about but faster than any of the other twelve contestants. “It wasn’t pretty but it worked out,” he said of his run on Sunday. “I was late (leaving the roping box) and had to rope him off the back fence. I tried to be as smooth as I could and it worked out.”
Johnston also competes in the steer wrestling, team roping and cutting but at the Wrangler 20X rodeo, was just tie-down roping.
The family, who ranches about forty miles northwest of Wall, raises and trains their own roping horses but buys outside horses for the bulldogging and barrel racing. Rusty, a nine-year-old horse, was Johnston’s mount for the Wrangler 20X rodeo. His older brother Calder also rides Rusty for college rodeo competition.
Johnston and his siblings, brother Calder, who is a senior at South Dakota State University, twin sister Carlee, and Savanna, fifteen, learned to rope at a young age. Their dad Sam had Carson roping by the time he was five, mostly in the branding pen, and from the back of a horse. “Dad let us rope pretty early,” Johnston remembers. “He taught us to rope, and gave us a chance.” Many of the kids’ earliest ropings were in the branding pen, and they loved branding season. “It was our favorite time of the year.”
As a senior at Wall High School, Carson plays football and basketball. After rodeo, his favorite sport is basketball, in part because he has played it longer and his dad coached it. In addition to sports, Johnston is on his school’s gold honor roll and is a member of the National Honor Society.
Since the two brothers share a roping horse they have to coordinate schedules. Luckily that is pretty easy. Calder’s college rodeos are over by late April, and Carson’s high school rodeos don’t start up till then. So Rusty comes home and is ridden by Carson. Calder is currently ranked in the top five in the steer wrestling, tie-down roping and team roping in the college rodeo Great Plains region.
And Carson has his share of honors. He’s the 2014 South Dakota High School All-Around champion, having placed in the top seven at state in all four of his events. Tie-down roping is his favorite, but bulldogging is a close second. This was his third and final year to compete at the Wrangler 20X rodeo, which is for students who are sophomores to seniors.
He hasn’t decided where he will attend college this fall, but he hopes to rodeo collegiately. His career path will lead to something either in the agriculture sector or in engineering, and eventually, he hopes to come back and ranch with his dad, Sam and his mom, Cary.
One of the girls competing at last weekend’s rodeo was breakaway roper Cedar Jandreau.
The Kennebec, S.D. cowgirl represented the River Region, after having been the 2014 S.D. High School Breakaway champ.
Like Carson, this was her third time competing at the Wrangler 20X rodeo, and like Carson, she competes in other events as well: the barrel racing, pole bending, and team roping. She finished fourth in the weekend’s competition.
The daughter of Marty and Sindi Jandreau, she grew up in a rodeo family. Her dad is a former National Finals Rodeo saddle bronc rider, her mom ran barrels, and her older brother, Dawson, is a saddle bronc rider. Breakaway may be her strong point when it comes to her competition, but her favorite event is her dad’s. “All in all, (considering) the whole rodeo, my favorite event is the saddle bronc riding. I grew up around it, and I’m pretty sure I know more about it than the breakaway,” she laughed. “I’m a roughstock girl.” Her older brother Dawson “watched videos of saddle bronc riding twenty-four/seven, so saddle bronc riding is a big part of my life.”
She is a senior at Lyman County High School in Presho, and she enjoys school, even though she’d rather be outside. “I do really well in school, but any day I’d rather be outside riding.” Basketball is a good distraction from school. “I play basketball so that helps me get through. It gives me something to look forward to.”
The bubbly eighteen year old is well-liked at school as well. She was prom queen her junior year and homecoming queen last fall. “I’m just really nice,” she humbly said. Being nice pays off, she knows, and she’s nice to everyone, including the geeks, a group in which Cedar includes herself. “I’m one of those geeks,” she laughed. “I choose studying over other things. Hey, the geeks are the fun ones to hang out with.”
She is the junior advisor for her school’s FFA program and has been on her school’s A and B Honor Roll. She’s also a Big Sister, with a first grader as her partner.
Cedar has qualified for the state high school finals the past three years, and has finished in the top four at state, qualifying her to go on to the National High School Finals all three years.
She has not decided what college she’ll attend this fall, but it will be influenced by the rodeo scholarship offers she hopes to receive. She’s interested in doing something in the medical field.
For many high school rodeo athletes, rodeo fulfills their drive to compete, and Cedar is no different. “I enjoy the competition. There’s always somebody who’s better than you that day. Anybody can win.” As her dad tells her, “it’s not over till the fat lady sings.” She does well under pressure. “I really enjoy it.”
In addition to high school rodeo, Cedar has run barrels and breakaway roped at the Indian National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas from 2012 through 2014, and also roped at the International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Okla. last July. Part of the pull of rodeo is the fact that competition for the contestants doesn’t end when school is over, like it does for high school and college sports, and that is especially true for cowgirls. Cedar knows she’ll be able to compete for a long time and she looks up to the more “mature” cowgirls like Carol Hollers and Kakes Tibbits. Carol “has been roping since I was little, and she still kicks butt. She’s kicking the butts of the younger girls roping.” The same goes for Kakes. “She’s been to the Indian National Finals twenty times, and she’s still going. I’ve had some mature ladies who have showed me, you are still going to get your butt kicked by us old ladies. And this can be you some day,” she said, referring to herself, “but not today.”
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Thanks in part to the COVID restrictions – which sent their girls home for online college courses, the Plendl family of Kingsley, Iowa, saw many successes in the arena in 2020.