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Nebraska Youth Qualify For National High School Rodeo Competition
story by Ruth Nicolaus
The Nebraska High School Rodeo season wrapped up last weekend 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 15-16 and the short go-round on June 17. The top four contestants in each of twelve events were determined, and they will go on to compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyoming, July 16-22.
Champions from the 2017 Finals are: Gauge McBride, Kearney, bareback riding; JT Bradley, Brewster, boys cutting; Morgan Kessler, Callaway, girls cutting and breakaway roping; Maddee Doerr, Creighton, goat tying; Grant Turek, St. Paul, tie-down roping; Sage Miller, Springview, saddle bronc riding; Brook Jamison, Ashby, barrel racing and pole bending; Zane Patrick, Bartlett, and JT Bradley, Brewster, co-champions in the steer wrestling; Mason Ward, North Platte, bull riding; and Tee Whited and Rio Whited, North Platte, team roping.
The year-end all-around winners were JT Bradley, Brewster (boys), and Brook Jamison, Ashby (girls).
Reserve all-around champs were Gauge McBride, Kearney (boys) and Maddee Doerr, Creighton (girls). Rookie of the year went to Gracie Pokorny, Barlett, (girls) and Gauge McBride, Kearney (boys). The V-Bar Sales Men’s Timed Event Trailer was awarded to Gus Franzen of Kearney. The 2017-2018 Nebraska High School Rodeo Queen is Joscelyn Soncksen of Lexington.
The following are highlights of a few of the champions.
Breakaway roping and girls cutting champion Morgan Kessler
Callaway’s Morgan Kessler came home with two titles: breakaway champion and girls cutting champion.
The seventeen year old cowgirl switched breakaway horses in the spring, which made a difference in her roping. She won second in the first round in Hastings, then knew all she had to do for her second run was “rope clean” and not break the barrier. It was hard for her to hold back and not push the barrier. “I like being fast and going for first,” she said, but she held off, making a clean run.
A broken barrier in the short round and a time of 12.9 seconds caused her to think she didn’t win the year end title, till her mom, Tina, also the high school secretary, told her she did.
This will be her second qualification for the National High School Finals; she competed there two years ago in the cutting. The cutting is tough at Nationals, she said. “It’s hard to be amazing with some of the horses there.” But Kessler is ready to do whatever it takes. “I’ll do whatever my trainers (Don and Kelly Troyer) tell me to do.”
Kessler, who is homeschooled, is the daughter of Kevin and Tina Kessler.
Tie-down champion Grant Turek
Grant Turek used his experience to his advantage.
This year’s state finals was the second qualification for the St. Paul cowboy, which made his competition this year better.
He came into state finals in first place in the tie-down roping, and he had a plan. “I knew I had to go make my runs, and do what I wanted to do: be consistent, be smooth, and no mistakes.”
And second time around helped. “Not everything was new,” he said. “Being in the short round last year helped. I felt like I’d been there.”
Turek, who will be a junior at St. Paul High School this fall, will make his first trip to National High School Finals. He qualified for the National Junior High Finals three times.
He also competed in the team roping at state finals, finishing in sixth place.
In high school, he plays basketball, is on the honor roll, and is a member of the National Honor Society.
He is the son of Jeff and Sheila Turek.
Goat tying champion Maddee Doerr
Maddee Doerr didn’t let a rough patch this spring get her down.
The fall rodeo season was good to her, but in the spring it was “a little rough,” she said, “till I pulled my head out and started doing good.” Her problem? The goats were tough, and “figuring out how to tie them took me a little while. Once I figured that out, I took off from there.”
The goats were also difficult to keep tied at state finals. In the first round, out of 28 cowgirls, only eight had their goats stay tied. Maddee’s was not one of them, but a solid run in the second round, with a time of 8.6 seconds, won her that round.
This is the fourth time the Creighton cowgirl has qualified for state finals. This year, she also competed in the breakaway roping this year, finishing second in the state.
This is also the fourth time she has qualified for Nationals. Last year, she finished as fourth in the nation in the goat tying.
This fall, she will attend Cochise College in Douglas, Arizona, on a full ride rodeo scholarship. She will compete on the rodeo team in the goat tying, breakaway, and possibly the team roping. She plans on studying agri-business at the two-year school.
This is the second year Doerr has finished as the Nebraska goat tying champion.
She is the daughter of Eric and Monica Doerr.
Bull riding champion Mason Ward
Mason Ward led the pack of bull riders in the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association all year long.
The North Platte resident, who will be a junior at McPherson County High School this fall, broke his ankle at the 2016 National High School Finals Rodeo in July of last year, and ended up sitting out the first three rodeos of the fall season. But then he never looked back, winning first at eight rodeos (O’Neill, Grand Island, Nelson, Callaway, McCook, Mitchell, Harrison and Crawford), and placing second at Stapleton.
He entered state finals in first place, and won the title with a total of 129.5 points, more than forty points ahead of the number two bull rider, Conner Halverson.
Ward knows the mindset of a bull rider has to be positive. “You have to believe in yourself, and you can’t ever fight your head. You have to go at it 100 percent.” He describes his attitude towards bull riding as “grinding” away.
Ward also plays football and wrestles at Tryon High School and is on the honor roll.
This will be his second qualification for the National High School Finals.
At state in Hastings, Ben Wood, Greeley, was the only bull rider out of six riders to cover two of his three bulls; two riders covered one of three (Ward and Halverson).
Ward is the son of a former bull rider, Mark, and his wife Kelly.
For the 2016-17 year end rankings, visit http://hsrodeo-nebraska.com/rodresults/rgn1ev.htm. For more information on the state finals and national finals, visit www.AdamsCountyFairgrounds.com, www.hsrodeo-nebraska.com, and www.nhsra.com.
The complete list of qualifiers for Nationals follows. Final results from the 2017 Nebraska State High School Finals Rodeo can be found at http://hsrodeo-nebraska.com/rodresults/rgn1ev.htm.