Sarah Fleming is doing her best to savor her last year of high school rodeo. She's also trying to make sure her brother soaks up every moment of his freshman year of rodeo.
"It's all gone so fast," she said. "I keep telling him to not take it for granted."
The Colorado high school rodeo circuit is unique in many ways, but for most, one of its best traits is the family aspect.
"Last year, I went with my sister and it really made me want to be in high school rodeo," Eric Fleming said. "There's such a family atmosphere, and everybody is there for you."
Sarah's advice for her brother comes from experience. Her sophomore year, her horse was injured, and she missed most of the next year because it was recovering from an injury.
"This year, my horse is finally healthy," she said. "I'm finally riding competitively again."
The Moffat County rodeo team is traditionally one of the most competitive in the state. This year is much the same, but competition isn't always what makes the memories.
"My favorite memory is from last year when we were all snowed in at Golden and had to stay an extra day," Sarah Fleming said. "Almost every single person stayed at the same hotel, and they kept the pool open all night. Everybody hung out and had a blast."
The rodeo members spend more time on the road than any other sports team. They travel to all four corners of Colorado during the fall and spring seasons. The trailers that carry the horses also can serve as mobile homes.
"We usually park our trailers near each other," Sarah Fleming said about the Moffat County group. "We don't always travel together, but we see each other often."
Each weekend, the cowpokes compete in at least two rodeos. They earn points in each event by placing in the top 10. The season winners are determined by the amount of points accumulated throughout the year. The top four finishers earn a trip to the National High School Rodeo Finals in June.
The Bulldog team has two national qualifiers on this year's team in seniors Kendel Fawcett and Becky White. Both girls qualified for the national finals in pole bending; Fawcett did it as a sophomore and White went as a junior.
This year, White and Fawcett, as well as senior Subrina Showalter, are all in the top 15 in several events. In the all-around standings, White is eighth, Fawcett is 13th, and Showalter is 15th after the eight fall rodeos. Other top standings are: Fawcett in fifth in the barrel racing, Showalter seventh in breakaway roping and White in seventh in goat tying and fifth in pole bending. In the boys standings, Austin Corson is third in bareback riding, and Justin Hegwer is seventh in steer wrestling.
The spring season started today with a rodeo in Cortez at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds.
Eric Fleming missed the fall rodeos because he was in football. He'll have to wait one more weekend to make his high school debut because he's competing in a Little Britches rodeo in Rifle this weekend.
"I'm excited to get going," he said. "I've been ready for this since sixth grade."
April 1-2 Ute Mountain Rodeo Club Montezuma County Fairgrounds
April 8-9 Valley Rodeo Club Jefferson County Fairgrounds
April 15-16 Northern Colo. Cowboys CSU Equine Center
April 22-23 El Paso County High School Rodeo Club Latigo Trails Equestrian Center
April 29-30 Pueblo Outlaws Western Horseman's Arena - Pueblo West
May 6-7 Adams County Super Stars Adams County Fairgrounds
May 13-14 Northwestern Rodeo Club Eagle County Fairgrounds
May 20-21 Basin Rodeo Club Sky Ute Event Center
May 27-29 San Luis Valley High School Rodeo Club Ski Hi Stampede Park
Jun 2-4 South East All Stars Rocky Ford Fairgrounds
June 22-25 CSHSRA State Finals Jefferson County Fairgrounds