Rodeo champions fight off the pressure

Joe Kavanaugh
Rapid City Journal

Saturday night at a South Dakota High School Finals Rodeo is a special experience for the 280 or so youngsters who have earned the honor of participating.

For the select few who have made it into the top 15 in their event and are vying for a gold buckle or a top-four spot on the South Dakota National Team, there is the stepping out onto the biggest stage of finals rodeo and performing at their very best.

“There is always a little more pressure than other rodeos,” Emilee Pauley said as she prepared for a busy night having qualified in the short go in reined cow horse, breakaway roping, goat tying, and barrel racing. “You can see what the girls ahead of you are doing and what you have to do to make it to Nationals. And you want to end the rodeo on a good note. Last year the short round didn’t go as well as I wanted it to, so I’m trying to keep my mind focused and have a better short round this year.”

Taking advantage of experience and a watchful eye, Pauley posted the quickest goat tying run of the short go (7.86 seconds) and with it the finals average vaulting her to second in the final average standings behind event winner Karissa Rayhill (Martin). The National Finals qualification was the Wall junior’s second of the rodeo as she had qualified in girls cutting — winning the short go as well–earlier in the week. Sawyer Gilbert (Buffalo) and Mary Risse (Martin) earned spots on South Dakota National Team as well.

Myles Kenzy, last year’s boys’ all-around champion, a two-time National qualifier, and a Saturday short go qualifier in rein cow horse, tie-down roping and team roping, acknowledged the pressure as well though pointing out that the ever improving quality of his rivals perhaps played as much a part as concern for his own abilities.

“It’s a little different this year maybe then when I first competed because the competition is better which adds to the pressure of having to do well,” Kenzy said. “And that makes a difference in how you approach an event. In team roping, we (partner Blasius Steffen) made the short go but we are not sitting very well, so we will need to go all out. But in the tie-down, I’m setting good so I just need to go make a solid run and let the cards fall where they may.”

The evening short go perhaps a had a little less pressure for Kenzy after the Gregory grad turned in the best score in the rein cow horse short go in the afternoon thereby earning a second gold buckle to the boys cutting crown won on Wednesday.

In other results, Carson Good (Long Valley) successfully defended his 2016 steer wrestling crown while short go winner Carter Kennedy (Beresford, 5.45) joined Trig Olson (Prairie City) and Sterling Lee (Rhame, N.D.) on the National Team.

“There is a little more pressure, but the way that I look at it, I just have to stick to the basics that I know and everything will be alright,” Good said of a 7.48 second run that was good enough for 5th in the short go and the state finals average title.

Saturday night’s short performance closed completion in the 2017 South Dakota High School Finals Rodeo. And for the numerous seniors attending their final State Finals, the days of friendly competition and fun times came with tinged with bitter sweetness.

“Since this is my last one, I won’t get to see some of these kids for a long time and there are some I may never see again,” Kenzy said. “That’s a little sad.”

Kenzy can perhaps take solace in the fact that the rodeo community is a tight knit group, and never a far journey away.

Saturday short go Leaders: Bareback – Lante’l Swallow, Batesland, 70; Barrel racing – Karissa Rayhill, Martin, 17.309; Breakaway roping – Kate Heimer, Andover, 2.20; Bull riding – Chris Fisher, Buffalo, 73; Goat tying – Karissa Rayhill (Martin, 7.51); Pole bending – Riley Donnelly, Elk Points, 21.026; Saddle bronc – Cash Wilson, Wall, 67; Steer wrestling – Carter Kennedy, Beresford, 5.45; Reined cow horse – Myles Kenzy, Iona, 88.50; Tie-down roping – Trevor Olson, Mud Butte, 9.59.

2017 State Champions: Boys Cutting – Myles Kenzy, Iona; Girls Cutting – Kailyn Groves, Faith; Bareback – Colt Hokana, Columbia; Barrel racing – Jill Donnelly, Elk Point; Breakaway roping – Sawyer Gilbert, Buffalo; Bull riding – Lyle Dillon, Allen; Goat tying – Karissa Rayhill (Martin, 7.51); Pole bending – Emily Mendel, Baltic: Saddle bronc – Cash Wilson, Wall; Steer wrestling – Carson Good, Long Valley; Reigned cow horse – Myles Kenzy, Iona; Tie down roping – Cord Roberts, Rapid City.