Broadus produces a third champion
Two alumni and a current student from Broadus (Mont.) High School are champions in the rodeo world.
In July, Houston Brown, a 19-year-old cowboy who attended Broadus High School, won the saddle bronc riding at the National High School Finals Rodeo.
Then, three months later, Jess Lockwood of Volborg won the PBR world title.
Now, just a week ago, Garett Cunningham, a freshman at Broadus High School, won the saddle bronc riding at the Junior NFR in Las Vegas.
Cunningham, the son of TJ and Heather Cunningham, competes in high school rodeo in the saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping and team roping. Of his three events, saddle bronc riding is his strength.
He got his start about three and a half years ago, his dad said, when he decided he wanted to ride broncs. His parents took him to a roughstock riding school at Dawson Community College in Glendive, where one of the saddle bronc riding instructors was veteran bronc rider Shaun Stroh. He and Stroh hit it off, and Garrett considers Stroh his mentor and a big help in learning how to ride.
During his junior high school years, Garrett rode steers for the saddle bronc riding; this fall, he started with bucking horses in high school rodeo. His parents made sure he had what he needed to be successful: a bucking machine, to learn the fundamentals, and plenty of practice animals. “We’ll support him as long as he wants to do it,” TJ said.
The Junior NFR in Las Vegas wasn’t the first big stage for Garrett. He qualified for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo twice, and in Little Britches Rodeo, in which he has competed since he was six years old, he’s been to their finals three times. He qualified for the Little Britches Rodeo National Finals this past summer, but his parents made him choose between going to the Junior High Finals or the Little Britches Finals. Garrett chose the junior high finals.
He qualified for the Junior NFR in Rock Springs, Wyo. in October, and at the Junior NFR, he made two qualified rides with scores of 69 and 75 but bucked off his third horse. With 144 points on two head, he was seven and a half points ahead of second place, with enough points to win the senior saddle bronc riding.
For his winnings, Garrett brought home a buckle, a saddle, and $1,300, which will go towards a pair of new black and red chaps, with white fringe.
In Las Vegas he attended one night of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, “cruised” the Strip, and he got to hang out with old friends from Montana and new friends he’d made at the Junior NFR.
To help pay the way for their trip to Las Vegas, Garrett, who likes to weld, made recycled art out of old tools and horseshoes. He sold the art at a local business in Broadus, bringing home several hundred dollars to help pay for fuel. Some of his material, including c-clamps he used to make tractor art, came from his dad. “Now I don’t have any C clamps in the shop,” TJ said.
Garrett is involved in the FFA program through Broadus High School, and is a member of 4-H, where he shows horses, cattle and sheep. His saddle bronc role models are Houston Brown, Billy Etbauer, and Jacobs Crawley.
Why so much rodeo talent from sparsely populated southeastern Montana? TJ “doesn’t recommend the water,” he jokes, but says the community of Broadus is very supportive of its youth. “People do what they can to help kids out.” People the Cunninghams didn’t know were offering congratulations, he said.
High school rodeo is over till the spring, but Garrett has been invited to do an exhibition ride at the Montana Circuit Finals Rodeo in Great Falls in January. After high school, he might attend college, he said, competing collegiately, and he might even go on to the pros after college. For sure, he’ll try to qualify for the Junior NFR next year.
His sponsors are Boot and Tack, Broadus; Stockman Bank, Miles City; Stockman Insurance, Miles City; and Sidney Livestock Market Center in Sidney. F