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Rodeo Spotlight IMRA Finals
story by Michele Toberer
Excitement is in the air as many cowboys and cowgirls from across the world are making their plans to arrive in January 2020, to Guthrie, Oklahoma for the International Professional Rodeo Association’s IFR50, hoping to leave from the Lazy E Arena as newly crowned world champions in their sport. Although smaller in stature, the International Miniature Rodeo Association contestants hold just as much excitement in their hearts as they plan to do the same. The IMRA finals competition will start at 8:00 am on January 15th, and between the start of the event and the finish on January 17th, there will be two long-gos, 1 short-go and the final two contestants in each division of the miniature bareback, saddlebronc, bull riding, and barrel racing events will battle it out in a head-to-head sudden death competition right on the arena floor of the IFR50 competition.
Last season the IMRA finals had over 150 qualified contestants and paid out over $20,000 in prize money and awards. This year is slated to be bigger and better in all aspects. Contestants between the ages of 5-18 years have been qualifying in multiple divisions in states all across the country this year in order to earn the chance to compete at the IMRA finals. “We are very proud to endorse all three riding events plus barrel racing,” says one of the IMRA head honchos, Mike Latting. The divisions in each of the riding events are: Tiny Tots, 5 and under, Pee Wees, 5-7-years-old, Juniors, 8-11-years-old, Seniors, 12-14-years-old, and Super Seniors, 15-18-years-old. The barrel racers compete in the same divisions except there is no Tiny Tots, and the Pee Wee division is for ages 6-7-years old. “Members must compete in at least 5 sanctioned rodeos during the season to qualify for the IMRA finals, and we’ve had qualifying rodeos in many states across the country such as Oklahoma, Illinois, Missouri, Alaska, Louisiana, and California. The association is growing, and we are excited to be doing big things for these young competitors.”
Providing an opportunity for young rodeo athletes to succeed is on the forefront of Mike Latting and Keith Wooten’s agenda when it comes to the IMRA. Mike spent decades working in education besides being an IPRA contractor and rodeo producer and believes that kids need to be given places to be successful. “In the rodeo industry we have definitely gotten to a point that the pool of contestants isn’t what it used to be; you see it in all sports. We wanted to provide an association that would not only give young rodeo athletes a place to grow into the sport, but also give them a place to learn and find success. When they are given the opportunity to learn how to do things the correct way and start with a good foundation to build on, we believe they can foster a talent than can take them where they want to go.”
The IMRA’s partnership to offer their finals in conjunction with the IFR is another benefit to their members, offering an experience that many never have in their lifetime. “It makes a huge impression on the kids when they ride next to these competitors at the IFR. They may be crawling down into the box next to a world champion, in the same performance, at the same venue, with the same crowd cheering them on. It is moments like those that will build a champion.”
Moving along with IFR50 to the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, is a move that many in the industry are excited about. Mike explained, “I think it’s a match made in heaven and think the venue is going to enhance everything we’ve been trying to do.”
For more information about competing at an IMRA sanctioned rodeo near you, being approved as an IMRA stock contractor, or learning about putting on an IMRA sanctioned rodeo, you can go to the association’s website: internationalminiaturerodeoassociation.com or find them on Facebook at International Miniature rodeo Association IFR Tour.