Nebraska youth headed to national high school rodeo
Champions crowned in each event
HASTINGS, NEB. (June 12, 2022) – The Nebraska High School Rodeo season wrapped up with the high school finals in Hastings at the Adams County Fairgrounds. Rodeo athletes from across the Cornhusker State competed in two go-rounds on June 10-11 and the short go-round on June 12. The top four contestants in each of fifteen events were determined, and they will compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) in Gillette, Wyoming July 17-23, 2022.
The 2021-2022 champions are Spencer Denaeyer, Mullen (bareback riding); Makayla Wray, Ord (pole bending and breakaway roping); Coy Johnston, Stapleton (steer wrestling); Monte Bailey, Seneca (saddle bronc riding); Sid Miller, Merna (tie-down roping); Libby Hegeman, Arlington (goat tying); Brent Charlton, North Platte and Jate Saults, Big Springs (team roping, header and heeler); Anna Clark, Thedford (barrel racing); Cooper Kursave, Arcadia (bull riding); Tatum Olson, Bloomfield (reined cow horse); Bo Bushhousen, St. Libory (boys cutting); Whitney Jennings, Seneca (girls cutting); Cale Buss, Atkinson (light rifle) and Tanner Ellis, Minden (trap shooting ).
Boys rookie of the year went to Koltdyn Heath, Minden, and girls rookie of the year is Reagan McIntyre, Grand Island. McIntyre also won the girls’ all-around title; for the second year, Cooper Bass, Brewster, is the year-end boys all-around champion.
Kylie Lancaster, Hastings, was crowned as the 2022-2023 Miss Nebraska High School Rodeo queen.
The following are synopses of some of the champions.
Pole Bending and Breakaway champion: Makayla Wray, Ord
Makayla Wray came into her junior year of state finals in second and third place in her three events, and left a state champion in two of them.
The seventeen-year-old cowgirl, a soon-to-be senior at Ord High School this fall, called her three days at state finals, “amazing.” She was cheering for her friend Gracey Taylor in the poles, but when Gracey knocked over a pole to get a five-second penalty in the short round, it opened the door for Wray.
“My heart broke for her, but I thought, ‘there’s a chance (for Wray to win the year-end title.) Then I went and knocked down a pole.” But there was no time for reflection; she had to compete in the breakaway roping next. “You have to have a short memory in rodeo,” she said.
The daughter of Mark and Denise Wray, Makayla will be vice-president of her school’s FFA chapter this fall, is a member of the National Honor Society, was just elected student president of the Nebraska State High School Rodeo Association, and plays basketball. She has a 4.0 GPA.
She has also qualified for the NHSFR in the team roping. This is her first trip to Nationals.
Bareback riding champion – Spencer Denaeyer, Seneca
For the second year in a row, Spencer Denaeyer took home the state saddle bronc riding title.
The eighteen-year-old, a 2022 graduate of Mullen High School, didn’t do well at the 2021 NHSFR.
“Last year, I went in hot-headed, thinking I was the state champ, I was going to (Nationals), and things were going to be all right.” He didn’t make the short go at the Nationals; his goals are higher this year. “I need to have my hammer cocked, and be ready to go. My goal is to win it.”
He will attend Odessa (Texas) College this fall on a rodeo scholarship and compete collegiately, majoring in ag technology.
He is the son of Mark and Bree Bailey.
Steer wrestling champion – Coy Johnston, Stapleton
Coy Johnston comes from a long line of steer wrestlers, and now he’s won his first state title.
The Stapleton cowboy finished last year’s season in second place, behind his good friend and fellow steer wrestler Dane Pokorny; the two cowboys switched spots this year, with Pokorny finishing as reserve champion.
For Sunday’s short round, he gave it his all. “I had to make a good run today,” he said. “I just went out there, not safetying up or anything, and beat Dane by a half-point.” There’s no animosity between the two; “we are really good friends,” Johnston said.
Johnston’s dad Jason was a steer wrestler, as were his uncles, Jeff, Chad and Joel. “If you’re a Johnston,” he joked, “you’re going to be a steer wrestler.”
This fall, Johnston will be a senior at Stapleton High School. He plays football and basketball and is an FFA member.
He is the son of Jason and Jennifer Johnston.
Saddle bronc riding champion: Monte Bailey, Hyannis
Hyannis cowboy Monte Bailey won the saddle bronc riding title.
The 2022 Hyannis High School graduate was the only cowboy who made three qualified rides.
He is coming off a knee injury from the football season, where he tore the meniscus and nearly pulled the ligaments off the bone.
“I hurt my knee a while back, so it was a little iffy on my first horse,” he said. “But I just let it all fly and left it out there, and it was pretty fun.” His third ride, in the short round, “wasn’t the prettiest one, but I got through it.”
He will compete for Montana State University in Bozeman this fall on a rodeo scholarship while he attends Gallatin College, majoring in carpentry.
He is the son of Ben and Shelly Bailey.
Team roping champions – Brent Charlton, North Platte (header) and Jate Saults, Big Springs (heeler)
Brent Charlton and Jate Saults teamed up for their first state title in the team roping.
The duo has roped together the past three years; Charlton just finished his junior year at Stapleton High School; Saults is a 2022 graduate of South Platte High School.
Both cowboys also competed in the tie-down roping, and Saults in the light rifle shooting.
This fall, Saults will attend Western Oklahoma State University in Altus on a rodeo scholarship, majoring in ag business. He is the son of Scott and Jill Saults. He has also qualified for Nationals in the light rifle.
Charlton, at Stapleton High School, plays basketball and is on the honor roll. He is the son of Philip and Sonya Charlton.
Barrel racing champion – Anna Clark, Thedford
Anna Clark is just a freshman, but she finished her first year of high school rodeo with a bang.
The fifteen-year-old cowgirl from Thedford won the barrel racing state title.
In the first round, she hit a barrel, adding a five-second penalty to her time. “I came into the arena, and we were going pretty fast, and I remember thinking, oh, no, we’re going to blow by this barrel. So I checked (her mare) up and I shouldn’t have.” They knocked over the first barrel.
But she redeemed herself, winning the second and third rounds “and today we became state champions,” she said, beaming.
“I wanted this all season, and I’ve worked for it a lot,” she said. “It feels good. It feels really good.”
She is the daughter of Adam and Alicia Clark.
–Adams County Ag Society
Champion: Spencer Denayer, Seneca
2. Tate Miller, Springview
3. Koltdyn Heath, Minden
4. Tanner Drueke, Sutherland
Alternate: Cinch Kiger, Overton
Champion: Anna Clark, Thedford
2. Hailey Witte, Crookston
3. Taci Flinn, Arcadia
4. Camryn Kocian, Brainard
Alternate: Mekenna Fisher, Hershey
Champion: Bo Bushhousen, St. Libory
2. Cooper Bass, Brewster
3. Trey Vance, Inavale
4. Devin Konicek, Burwell
Alternate: Dakota Storer, Arthur
Champion: Makayla Wray, Ord
2. Reagan McIntyre, Grand Island
3. Whitney Jennings, Seneca
4. Shayda Vaughn, Hershey
Alternate: Kieley Walz, Ainsworth
Champion:. Cooper Kursave, Arcadia
2. Hunter Boydston, Grover, Colo.
3. Jason Ducker-Kursave, Arcadia
4. Tanner Drueke, Sutherland
Alternate: Brady Painter, Ainsworth
Champion: Whitney Jennings, Seneca
2. Mekenna Fisher, Hershey
3. Brooke Forre, Newman Grove
4. Emma Pearson, Broken Bow
Alternate: Peyton Fisher, Hershey
Champion:. Libby Hegeman, Arlington
2. Reagan McIntyre, Grand Island
3. Ashlyn Henderson, Hyannis
4. Emma Warren, Thedford
Alternate: Laney Hoier, Herman
Champion: Makayla Wray, Ord
2. Gracey Taylor, Valentine
3. Reagan McIntyre, Grand Island
4. Raina Swanson, Genoa
Alternate: Emma Pearson, Broken Bow
Reined cow horse
Champion: Tatum Olson, Bloomfield
2. Charlie Bortner, McCook
3. Tucker Gillespie, McCook
4. Tate Talkington, Scottsbluff
Alternate: Jayda Meyring, Alliance
Saddle bronc riding
Champion: Monte Bailey, Lakeside
2. Leif Meidell, Harrison
3. Augustus Painter, Ainsworth
4. Carson Jones, Neligh
Alternate: Everett Blackburn, Bartlett
Champion: Coy Johnston, Stapleton
2. Dane Pokorny, Stapleton
3. Wyatt Reichenberg, Harrisburg
4. Taydon Gorsuch, Gering
Alternate: Beau Wiebelhaus, Springview
Champions: Brent Charlton, North Platte, and Jate Saults, Big Springs
2. Cooper Bass, Brewster and Zack Bradley, Brewster
3. Makayla Wray, Ord and Brady Renner, Ericson
4. Carter Anderson, Merriman and Sage Schrunk, Valentine
Champion: Sid Miller, Merna
2. Jate Saults, Big Springs
3. Cooper Phillips, Burwell
4. Carter Anderson, Merriman
Alternate: Seth Glass, Central City
All results unofficial.
Merna’s Sid Miller is the 2021-2022 Nebraska State High School tie-down roping champion. Photo by Jill Saults.
Makayla Wray, Ord, won the pole bending title for the 2021-2022 season; she is also the breakaway roping champion. Photo by Jill Saults.
Brent Charlton, North Platte, and Jate Saults, Big Springs, combined to win the team roping title for the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association. Photo by Jill Saults.
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