High school rodeo, more than just a competition | CraigDailyPress.com
Elwood Shelton

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High school rodeo, more than just a competition

Moffat County’s western tradition lives on in the form of one sport rodeo.

Shalea Pinnt, a junior, circled her horse, Moon Runner, around the corral. The chestnut gelding’s hooves struck the dirt of the arena, sending a hollow echo to the high ceiling. Pinnt turned Moon Runner and aimed him at the first barrel on the course, riding so narrow most onlookers think she is heading straight for the obstacle.

Horse and rider lean into the turn, make their way around it, and as they leave, the barrel is still standing only two more to go.

“It is without a doubt one of the hardest sports out there,” Pinnt said. “You’ve got to remember all the little things that go into your technique keep you head up, make sure you’re sitting hard in the saddle and know when to lean. All that, and you have to make sure you and your horse are working together.”

The Moffat County High School rodeo team is eight competitions into the 14-meet rodeo season. It’s a split season which starts in the spring and does not finish until the state rodeo, which is held in the fall.

All but three competitions are paid for by the students. The other three are sponsored by the high school through a $4,000 donation, as well as close to $7,000 which is raised by the young cowboys and cowgirls.

This weekend, the team will travel to Pueblo to compete at the state fairgrounds.

Rodeo is a high school sport unlike any other. It’s a sport born from the cattle drives and roundups from two centuries ago.

It’s a sport that borders on a lifestyle.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do since I was little. I grew up on a ranch, so it’s made it a little easier,” said freshman Laura Nottingham, while saddling her horse, Pistol. “I rodeoed in Little Britches, but the high school circuit is a big step up it’s tough competition.”

And students face that competition on their own. Rodeo is an independent sport, with little adult supervision. Students have to be dedicated enough to practice on their own and make it to competitions.

High school rodeo incorporates all the events that run in a typical rodeo rough stock, races and roping. The only event missing from the Moffat County docket this year is bulldogging, better known as steer wrestling. Moffat County bulldogger Justin Pankey graduated last year, after making it to the National High School Rodeo.

Almost all events are practiced during the week, with roping on Tuesdays and racing on Thursdays. Students don’t get any time to practice rough stock, bullriding, bareback or saddle bronc events.

“The practice you get from rough stock comes when you compete,” freshman Tyler Pinnt said. “I’m still going for my eight seconds this year.”

Students compete in all of the rodeos in the regular season with two goals in mind the state rodeo in Greeley and Nationals, which will be held in Springfield Ill.. While making it to state is an obtainable goal for many, Nationals is a different story.

Only the top-five competitors in each event from each state make it to Nationals, which is held in a different city each year. This is no easy task when you come from a state like Colorado, which boasts cowboys and girls who are seasoned veterans by the time they are seniors.

Moffat County has sent representatives to Nationals before. Last year Pankey went for bulldogging while Lacy White went in pole racing.

This year, three cowgirls have been leading the way for the Moffat County team. Kelly White, Chelsie Schnackenberg and Kaylie Steele all have stood-out in their barrel and pole racing performances.

The first half of the season is almost over, but still holds many hopes for the young rodeoers. They still have a chance at state and Nationals.

“It’s a lot of responsibility rodeoing,” sophomore Kristin Webber said. “You have to take care of your horse and equipment all year, and you have to stay in good shape so you don’t get hurt. It really makes you take on a lot.”