Fifth place is considered the first loser when it comes to the Colorado State High School Rodeo Association's state finals. And lately, fifth-place has been a spot in which members of the Moffat County High School rodeo team have found themselves.
Two competitors, senior Tia Brannan and junior Kendel Fawcett, finished fifth in this year's finals. Their finishes made it six times in the past three years that a Moffat County team member has been fifth.
Becky White, a rising senior, was able to escape the fifth-place curse.
"I was the last one to be announced, so it was intense," she said. "It was just a relief to finally make it."
White made it to the National High School Rodeo Finals by finishing in a tie for third in the season standings of pole bending. The top-four placers earn the trip to the national finals.
Her freshman year, White finished fifth in poles to just miss a trip. She knows what Brannan and Fawcett are going through.
"I would have loved for those two to go, too," she said. "It's not fun to be in fifth."
There is good news for fifth-place finishers now that White made it to the finals. They've all made it to the NHSRF once in their careers. White's sister, Kelly, finished fifth in an event in 2003 after qualifying for the finals in 2001.
Brannan made it her freshman year, and Fawcett went last year as a sophomore.
Brannan has had three consecutive fifth-place finishes in goat tying.
"I felt I did the best with the goats I drew this year,' she said. "Last year, I made one really big mistake, and it cost me, but this year, I felt like I did about the best I could, and I just didn't make it."
At the state rodeo, there are three rounds of competition: the first go, the second go and the short go (or championship round). Additional points are awarded for how well the rider does in the three combined rounds (the average).
Brannan, who went into the state finals in fourth place, finished 12th in the first go, second in the second go and sixth in the short go.
"The first go really ended up hurting me the most," she said. "Since I just missed (fourth place) by three points, not scoring in that round hurt me."
Although Brannan's high school rodeo career is over, she had plenty to look forward to in her rodeo future.
"I'm leading in Little Britches in goat tying, so I'll be doing that the rest of the summer," she said. "The chance to go to nationals is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that a lot of girls don't get."
Brannan plans to attend Laramie County Community College in Laramie, Wyo., in the fall.
"My high school experience prepared me so much for college rodeo," she said.
Like Brannan, White also had a round that she thought could have cost her a chance to make the finals. She had a no time in the first go of poles. She came back to finish second in the second go and sixth in the short go.
"I thought my chances were over after the first round," she said. "I was really, really nervous that I didn't make it."
White went into the finals last weekend in second place in poles. She finished just in front of teammate and best friend, Kendel.
Fawcett was seventh at the start of the state finals. She earned points with a seventh-place finish in the first go, and she won the short go. Final points weren't tallied by Tuesday, so Fawcett didn't know how close she ended up to White.
Next year's goal is for White and Fawcett to qualify for nationals.
"I'm not going to be doing poles, so hopefully, we can go in two different events," she said. "That would be awesome."
Fawcett's advice for her best friend's trip to the national finals in Gillette, Wyo., from July 18 to 24 was: "Expect the best competition in the country. It's amazing how fast some of them are."
As soon as final results are completed by the CSHSRA, a complete list of the top-10 finishes by MoCo team members will run in the Craig Daily Press.