It's a family affair

Most traveled high school team values time with each other and rodeo community

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As several members of the Moffat County High School rodeo team line up for a picture on their horses, Flo Martin's horse becomes a little camera shy.

Her mount shyly circles away from the line as coach Denette Webber explains, "She's still breaking him in."

In a sense, Martin and other members were all getting broke in Thursday night as they prepared at the Moffat County Fairgrounds for the start of the spring rodeo season.

The trailers were ready and waiting to load up members of the team and their trusty-but-sometimes-bashful steeds. Today, the caravan is on its way to the Montezuma County Fairgrounds to open up the spring season.

A combination of the eight-hour drive and that this week is spring break prevented half of the 23 ropers and riders from attending but the ones who are making the trip say they are ready.

"We've been conditioning the horses all winter," said Kristin Webber. "It's finally time be competitive again."

There is a long list of how high school rodeo is unique from the other prep extracurricular activities.

"It's a lot different than all the other sports," coach Webber said. "While I'm the coach, really my job is to make sure the paper work is done and that everybody has a way to get to the rodeo."

Most of the athletes have learned how to rodeo from growing up on a ranch. The families and an occasional pointer from community riders or ropers help them to improve. The team generally gets together at the Moffat County Fairgrounds once a week for practice, the ropers on Tuesday and the riders on Thursday.

"I've mostly leaned all I know from my mom," said Becky White. "We learn from each other, too, but we really don't have a team coach like the other sports do."

Rodeo is also the only sport with two seasons. Going into the spring, most of the MCHS rodeo team members have four competitions under their belts from the fall.

Each rodeo charges entry fees. The high school athletic department pays for half of the entry and traveling fees for the MCHS team.

"I worked all winter so I can afford two months worth of rodeos," said Austin Schell.

While there are fees, there also is the opportunity to win the money back, as rodeo is the only sport in high school that an amateur can accept money.

"It is nice to win some of that money back," Schell said. "While the fun makes it worth it, the money makes it easier."

For the competition, overall consistency and attendance is just as important as being talented.

"To do well, you have to attend as many of the events as you can," White said. "Consistency and attendance are what get you points."

White, her sister, Kelly, and Tia Brannan are ranked in the top 12 in the state in all-around points from the fall season with Brannan in seventh, Becky White in ninth and Kelly White in 12th. Becky White hopes to be the third freshmen in a row to go to the national rodeo in July from MCHS. Her sister went two years ago and Brannan went last year in their first years of high school rodeo.

"I didn't go watch the nationals when Kelly went," she said. "But I went when my older sister was there and it was the biggest rodeo I've ever seen."

In order to qualify for nationals, one must finish in the top four of their event. Individually, Brannan is fourth in barrels and third in roping. Kelly White is one spot ahead of her younger sister in both of their top individual events with a fifth- and sixth-place in barrels and a fourth- and fifth-place in pole bending.

The Whites are an example of how much high school rodeo is a family affair. Many of the families travel to most of the events and being on the road every weekend also builds a collective family in the rodeo community.

"You see a lot of the same people every weekend," Kristin Webber said. "We all have a lot of friends from other places."

There are no team points but the Moffat County team is still aware of everyone representing their team.

"We support each other a lot," Denette Webber said. "It's a pretty close group."

The ropers and riders also are familiar with their competition.

"We know who usually is going to be in the top six," Becky White said. "After every weekend, I usually check out the Web site to see how we did in the points."

As the gate opens on a new season, the MCHS rodeo team members are anxious.

"It's all fun," Schell said. "Especially since my girlfriend is on the team."

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