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Nebraska Youth Qualify For National High School Rodeo Competition
story by Ruth Nicolaus
Champions crowned in each event
HASTINGS, NEB. (June 17, 2018) – 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 14-15 and the short go-round on June 16. 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 Rock Springs, Wyo., July 15-21.
Champions from the 2018 Finals are: Trey Seevers, North Platte, bareback riding; Grant Turek, St. Paul, tie-down roping; Sage Miller, Springview, saddle bronc riding; Jaylee Simonson, Dunning, pole bending; Sage Konicek, Ord, boys cutting; Bayli Bilby, Chadron, girls cutting; Wacey Day, Fleming, Colo., goat tying; Danielle Wray, Ord, breakaway roping; Marshall Still, Oconto, steer wrestling; Cauy Pokorny, Stapleton, and Clay Holz, Niobrara, team roping; Bailey Witt, Valentine, barrel racing; Conner Halverson, Gordon, bull riding; Colten Storer, Sutherland, reined cow horse; Jack Skavdahl, Marsland, trap shooting; and Ralph Saults, Big Springs, rifle shooting.
The girls year-end all-around award went to Bailey Witt of Valentine, with the reserve all-around to Jaylee Simonson of Dunning. The boys year-end all-around winner was Chase Miller, Broken Bow, and the reserve all-around went to Colten Storer, Sutherland. Girls rookie of the year was Wacey Day, Fleming, Colo., and the boys rookie of the year was Clay Holz, Niobrara. The 2018 Nebraska High School Rodeo queen title was awarded to Joscelyn Soncksen, Lexington.
The following are highlights of a few of the champions.
Steer wrestling champion
Marshall Still, Oconto
Marshall Still ended his high school rodeo career with a championship at the Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo.
The nineteen-year old cowboy entered the finals in second place but took advantage of opportunities to win the year-end title. “It was one of those deals that I knew I had a shot at it, but I just had to make good runs to get through it. Everything worked out all right.”
This is the fourth time Still has qualified for the state finals but the first time he will go on to the National High School Finals Rodeo. He also competed in the team roping at state.
In addition to high school rodeo, Still competes in youth events like the Ote Berry Junior Steer Wrestling World Championships, where he is ranked in the top five. Still competed at the Junior National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas last December and hopes to qualify again this year.
A graduate of Callaway High School, he played football, basketball and wrestled, was part of the one acts, quiz bowl, speech, FFA, and a member of the National Honor Society. This fall he will attend McCook (Neb.) Community College, competing collegiately and with the goal of earning his art education degree. He enjoys painting with water color and acrylics. He is the son of Richard and Brenda Still.
Barrel racing champion
Bailey Witt, Valentine
Bailey Witt had the best year of high school rodeo she’s ever had. She held the lead for much of the year. “The competition in the barrel racing in Nebraska was really, really tough,” she said. “We just had a great, great year.”
By “we”, Bailey includes her horse, Gus, a ten-year-old sorrel gelding. Horses are an integral part of the barrel racing, and Gus made a difference for his rider. “Running barrels on him is so amazing,” Witt said. “Every time I come out of the arena, I’m out of breath. He’s hard to ride, but at the same time, he’s fun.”
Keeping Gus healthy this year was key to Bailey’s success. “He’s been feeling his best. In the past few years, we’ve struggled with him being sore and having injuries. This year we were both one hundred percent, and we got on a roll.” Bailey also breakaway ropes on the horse, which the family has owned since he was two years old.
This is Bailey’s third year of state finals qualification. Last year, she finished fourth at state, qualifying her to go on to Nationals. Because Gus wasn’t at the top of his game, she didn’t do well there. She has a game plan for this year. “We’re just going to keep riding, getting him in the best shape he can be and making sure he’s feeling good. Then we’ll put three good runs together.”
Bailey will be a senior at Valentine High School this fall. She plays basketball and is involved in FFA, student council, and is a member of the National Honor Society.
This summer, she will compete at the International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Oklahoma and at Nebraska State Rodeo Association and Mid-States Rodeo Association rodeos. She is the daughter of John and Michele Wit.
Tie-down roping champion
Grant Turek, St . Paul
Last year, Grant Turek won the high school tie-down roping title, and he did it again last weekend in Hastings.
The seventeen-year-old cowboy led the standings for most of the year and made two good runs at state, winning first place in the first round and fourth place in the second round. He missed his calf in the short round, but had enough points amassed to hang on to the title.
This year was a tougher year for him than last year. His horse died at the end of the fall rodeo season, so he and his family had to purchase a new one for the spring. He and the new horse, an eleven-year-old sorrel gelding, “clicked,” he said. “It worked out good.”
At nationals last year, Grant finished the year twentieth in the nation.
He will be a senior at St. Paul High School this fall. He plays basketball and is involved in FFA and student council. He is also a member of the National Honor Society. Grant is the son of Jeff and Sheila Turek.
Pole bending champion
Jaylee Simonson, Dunning
Jaylee Simonson is the 2018 pole bending champion for the Nebraska High School Rodeo Association.
The eighteen-year-old cowgirl, a resident of Dunning, won the first round, knocked over a pole in the second round, and placed fifth in the short round to win the title.
She has qualified for state finals all four years of her high school career, but this will be her first trip to nationals.
She rode a horse leased from Jim Sybrant who has been ridden by four previous high school pole bending cowgirls. The horse, Snoop, is 21 years old and “knows his job,” she said. She is grateful to the Sybrants for the opportunity to ride the horse, who started his life as a ranch horse before being trained for the pole bending.
A 2018 graduate of Sandhills High School in Dunning, Jaylee was involved in volleyball, basketball, FFA, FBLA, one-acts, and the National Honor Society. This fall she will attend Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo., where she will compete in the breakaway roping and barrel racing and major in ag business.
Jaylee also competed at state finals in the barrel racing and goat tying. She is the daughter of J.W. and Cindy Simonson.
Rifle Shooting champion
Ralph Saults, Big Springs
Ralph Saults was surprised by his win in the rifle shooting at the state finals in Hastings.
He knew the other competitors were tough, and he knew he could shoot well, but he wasn’t sure how things would turn out. “The others behind me are pretty good, dead-eyes, too,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if I’d even place with all the competition I had. It was kind of a surprise. I didn’t know I was going to do so well.”
The seventeen-year-old cowboy gets plenty of practice shooting. He loves to hunt nearly anything, from deer to coyotes to prairie dogs, but his favorites are waterfowl: geese and ducks. This is the third time he has qualified for state finals, but his first time to go to nationals. He has a plan: “have fun and try my best.”
Ralph will be a junior at South Platte High School this fall. He plays basketball and is involved in FFA, quiz bowl, and is a member of the National Honor Society. In addition to rifle shooting, he competed in the tie-down and team roping in Hastings as well. He is the son of Scott and Jill Saults.
For complete results, visit http://www.hsrodeo-nebraska.com/results. For more information on the state finals and national finals, www.hsrodeo-nebraska.com, and www.nhsra.com.