Students mount up for state rodeo finals
Riders say activities teach life skills, responsibility
By MATTHEW WEAVER
Many of the Pacific Northwest's top contestants will compete next week at the Washington State High School Rodeo Association state finals.
The event will be June 16-19 in Coulee City, Wash., and feature 130 students from Washington state and parts of Idaho.
Dave Paul, president of the association, said the top four contestants will go to the national competition in Gillette, Wyo., and the fifth- through 10th-place contestants will go to the Silver State finals in Winnemucca, Nev.
The event was postponed from May due to the outbreak of the equine herpes virus, or EHV-1.
It will be the 40th anniversary of the event, Paul said.
Events include tie-down roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, bareback riding, team roping and cutting cows.
The association held 20 regular-season rodeos.
Paul said the association is designed to help students develop their skills.
"They take good care of their horses, they have a lot of responsibility," he said. "We're trying to develop them to be good adults and be successful in whatever they want to do after. It's hard work. Every one of these kids practices every night."
Many will go to college on rodeo scholarships, including several full-ride scholarships, he said.
The association will provide about $14,000 in scholarships to roughly 34 seniors.
Now the director of the Spokane office of the USDA Risk Management Agency, Paul competed in rodeo for about 15 years, including high school, college and professionally in Minnesota and Montana.
Paul's son, Jacob, 16, a junior in Post Falls, Idaho, has competed since he was 3.
"It's all ag-related," Dave Paul said. "It is actually pretty neat. There are so many of Jacob's competitors who farm and ranch, so a lot of the people I work with in my career, I see on the weekends."
Jacob Paul hopes to pursue a career in rodeo, competing professionally.
"I guess it beats going to work every day," he said. "There's a lot of money involved in it and if you're good enough, you can make a really good living off of it."
Two-time Miss Washington State High School Rodeo Queen Jonnie Crossland, a senior at Okanogan High School, said she entered her first barrel race when she was 5.
"You learn so many life skills," she said. "You get to go out, meet new people, network. It's just an amazing experience over all."
Crossland also hopes to compete professionally.
Association student president Lexi Cameron, 16, a high school junior in Centerville, Wash., started in the program three years ago. She participates in pole bending, rope tying and breakaway roping and team rope.
"You get to build friendships that are going to last forever," she said. "It's a very welcoming program and we're always looking for more kids. It gives you lots of new opportunities. It really has a lot to offer."
More participants would be welcome, Dave Paul said.
"We're really trying to grow the organization," he said. "We're really working hard as an executive board to try and do what we can to make this affordable. The more kids we can get involved with this, the better."
Dave Paul said there is cooperation among competitors, noting it's not uncommon for someone to lend a horse or push a calf for someone else.
"It's why it's such a neat sport -- there's such a camaraderie between contestants," he said. "While they all want to win, they want to see their friends win, too, and they'll do everything they can to see their friends do well."
Washington State High School Rodeo Association: www.wshsra.org