Moffat County junior high rodeo stars saddle up for national competition
For the Craig Press
The Moffat County High School rodeo team will have plenty of talent coming its way in the coming years as middle school-aged cowboys and cowgirls proved their mettle this year, culminating in the National Junior High Finals Rodeo June 20 to 26 in Des Moines, Iowa.
A trio of Moffat County athletes represented Northwest Colorado during the event with Maybell’s Cactus Barnes in chute dogging and tie down roping; Hamilton’s Logan Durham in bull riding; and Craig’s Jolene Rhyne in barrel racing, goat tying, and ribbon roping.
With more than a dozen total performance rounds spread across the week, Barnes was right in the middle of the action in the chute dogging during a Wednesday morning round in which he ranked 11th of 16 with a time of 6.79 seconds.
He later took seventh of 11 in the Friday morning tie down performance round at a time of 18.7.
With only one official time in each event, Barnes was short of the final go that finished up the week, a level to which Durham was agonizingly close.
Durham completed both of his bull rides at nationals, ranking fifth of seven for 61 points in his first performance; and eighth in a competitive field for 60 points to follow.
The undisputed leader in Colorado’s junior high bull riding circuit since sixth-grade — this May retaining the state title status he first achieved in 2019 — eighth-grader Durham said this year’s state finals were easily his best rounds.
“I rode all my bulls and felt the fire burning hotter that weekend,” he said.
Another trip to nationals might have spooked some, but he worked to stay mentally ready.
“I try to tell myself it’s just another rodeo so the nerves don’t affect my riding, but it is pretty more fun than any other rodeo,” he said.
Even so, disappointment was a factor at nationals, as he was just outside the top 20 who made it into finals, placing 21st with his 121 combined score.
“It was kind of a letdown,” he said.
Rhyne was the busiest of the bunch at nationals in three separate events.
She took 12th of 28 in her first barrel racing performance round, clocking in at 16.413 seconds, placing 8th of 29 in the second at 16.272.
Partnered with Elbert’s Nathan Lammers — with whom she earned a state championship belt buckle this spring — the duo took 14th of 18 (16.79 seconds) in a performance round for ribbon roping, though they were unable to make much of a dent in the aggregate.
It was goat tying in which she had her most improvement over the course of the week, outside of the top 100 in the first go round, only to jump up to 38th in the second go at a time of 10.09, during which she finished ninth of 23 in her performance round.
“Goats are definitely my favorite, and I put the most work into them,” she said. “I think the nerves from being at such a big event was the hardest part. I was so excited to finally be there. Some of the best athletes in the country were there, so being able to compete with them and be around them felt great.”
The event marked the end of middle school competition for Barnes, Durham and Rhyne, all of whom will be in ninth grade this fall.
The adjustment to the next level won’t be a big shock for Durham, who’s been alongside older athletes in multiple sports.
“I will probably stick with hockey and bull riding, which isn’t too scary because I’m already riding high school bulls out of the junior high rodeos,” he said.
Likewise, Rhyne is more excited than nervous for the near future.
“My goal is to qualify for nationals in goats every year and be in the top ten in every event,” she said. “I can’t wait to get into this fall season and compete at the high school level.”
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