With the academic year coming to an end, the Moffat County High School rodeo team is gearing up for its biggest events of the year.
The competition kicks off this weekend in Lamar with a three-day event to be followed by the state finals, which take place from June 19-22 in Loveland.
Once the state finals are completed, the top four qualifiers within each division will go on to nationals, which will be from July 22-28 in Farmington, N.M.
The rodeo team consists of 26 members who participate in six of seven events, ranging from barrel racing to goat tying. Currently, the team has no one entered in the steer wrestling category. The season started in September, and resumed at the end of April. The team has traveled around the state to compete in 19 rodeos.
Danette Webber, the adult sponsor for the MCHS rodeo team, said she has been pleased with the team's development.
"I am very excited with what the kids have done," Webber said. "I've seen a lot of dedication from them this year. We've had more kids placing than we ever have. Each rodeo is exciting because they've all, at different times, been placing. So it's real exciting to go and see who is actually going to place because we've had a lot place that have never placed before."
Webber said 16-year-old Kelly White and 16-year-old Tia Brannen are the two to watch. Through May 21, White was ranked fifth in pole bending and fourth in barrel racing. Brannen is ranked ninth in barrels, seventh in break away roping and seventh in goat tying.
White, who has been involved in rodeo since she was seven, said she expects to perform well at State Finals.
"Right now I think I'm tied for third in the state barrels and I think I'm fifth in poles," White said. "If I've got 80 some points in poles, if I keep them all up, then I have a good shot at nationals. In the barrels, I just have to be in the top three to get points so I can move up. The barrel racing is real tight. All the girls are really close together."
White said she especially looks forward to and enjoys the state finals because it is a week-long rodeo that provides the opportunity to spend time with friends and have a good time.
Brannen, who was placed in a saddle by her parents the day she was born, said she also has high expectations for the state finals.
"I think mainly my goal is to be in the average for the break away roping and goat tying because they've been my strongest events throughout the year," Brannen said. "My goal is to go to nationals, but if that doesn't happen then I guess I'd rather just be strong in the average and compete as best I can."
Brannen attributes her enjoyment of the sport to her family and to her competitive nature.
"My family has been doing it, so it gives us something to do as a family together," Brannen said. "And I like to rodeo; I have a lot of rodeo friends. It's a lot of fun to travel, too."
Webber, who is in her first year as an adult sponsor for the team, said she likes what she sees and believes that the success should continue.
"I think this is one of the best seasons that the team has ever seen, with the amount of kids that are placing," Webber said. "We've had a great year and a great bunch of kids. We've already got eight new participants coming in next year. The team looks like it's going to
continue to grow."