High school rodeo: Scofield finishes strong at NHSFR

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In rodeo, the difference between a stellar performance and winning number and seeing a possible big score suddenly turn sour often hinges on a good horse with a bit of luck thrown in for good measure.

For a couple of South Dakota cowboys, Dylan Scofield and Nolan Richie, the final day of the 2015 National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) in Rock Springs Wyo., on Saturday exemplified both ends of the spectrum.

For Scofield, a good draw and a solid 70-point ride and a fourth-place finish in the championship short go Saturday night earned the Philip freshman a second-place standing in the saddle bronc event behind Utah cowboy Ryder Wright, son of world champion saddle bronc rider Cody Wright, and brother of two-time national champion Rusty Wright.

“I went into the short go in second, and I drew a good horse,” Scofield said on Sunday while on the road home from Rock Springs. “I looked at the stats on the horse and there were only two qualified rides on him out of seven, and I was kind of nervous about that but it all turned out good. I drew really good horses and it kind of all came together for me this week. I thought it was going to be a little harder, but it wasn’t really anything too different.”

Richie, the tie down roping event leader after the first round, was one steady run on Saturday morning from punching a ticket to the championship short go and a possible national title. But lady luck wasn’t as kind as a good loop and a potentially winning effort came to an abrupt halt.

“My horse overturned the calf and I got disqualified. I didn’t realize it right away, but as soon as my horse started to blow up a little big, I knew it was the right call and there wasn’t much else I could do,” Richie said.

Undismayed by his misfortune, Richie displayed true cowboy grit in accepting an unforeseen circumstance sprung up largely out of his control.

“Rodeo is a very humbling sport, and I did the best I could. Anyway, now I know I can rope with the best out there and things just didn’t go my way this time. I’m very proud of how I competed and represented South Dakota,” said Richie, who will be attending Northeastern Oklahoma A&M on a rodeo scholarship. “It was a blast. I made a lot of new friends and it was an experience I will never forget.”

Nine South Dakota competitors advanced to Saturday’s short go contributing to an 11th-place finish for Team South Dakota in the team race, 13th in the boys’ race, and 10th in the girls’ competition. Team Utah swept all three categories.

Among the better performances of the short was the 7.66-second steer wrestling run by Sawyer Strand, a third-place effort which vaulted the Harrisburg junior from 19th to sixth in the average.

“I was trying to run the go round. I thought most of the guys would catch me and I would still be able to finish top 10 with that,” said Strand, who summarized the national finals rodeo experience as “meeting my expectations, and a little bit more.”

The busiest South Dakota competitor during the week was Kadoka senior Dylan Riggins, who competed in both bull riding and bareback. Although he came up a ride short in bulls, he made the short go in bareback on the way to a 10th-place finish in the average.

“The bull riding didn’t go as I wanted, but the bareback sure worked out. I had a pretty good little horse in the first round and I was okay in the second round,” said Riggins, who will be joining Oklahoma Panhandle State, one of the top rodeo programs in the country in the fall. “And in the short go, I did the best I could, but the horse bounced a little bit. Making the short go was the goal when I started, and I accomplished it. I’m very happy with that.”

On the girls’ side, no one perhaps better exemplified good old South Dakota try better than Mary Risse, who undaunted by a stumble in her first goat tying run on Tuesday, worked her way into the short go on her way to a sixth-place finish in the average.

Risse’s impressive performance followed an equally impressive outing at the South Dakota State Finals during which the Bennett County sophomore vaulted past 36 competitors to earn a spot on Team South Dakota.

“I didn’t have very good regional and I just told myself that if I wanted to go to Nationals, I had to pick up the pace. My first run here didn’t go as well, but then I tied a 7.8 in the second round, which brought me back to the short go, and in the short go I just made a smooth run,” said Risse, who was still relishing the memory of her short go experience on Sunday afternoon. “Oh, my gosh, I can’t even really explain it. It was amazing. I love pressure and I knew everyone was there to watch the best, and I was able to show that I was one of them.”

Rapid City’s Riley Ann Smith added a nice touch of South Dakota personality to the NHSFR proceedings by finishing second to Chloe Costello of Texas in the finals Queen contest, a result that the St. Thomas More junior attributed to a good interview.

“I won the interview portion of the contest and that’s the time you go one-on-one with the judges. I think they were able to see my personality and how I would be representing the sport of rodeo, and once they visited with me in the interview, they watched me throughout the competition,” Smith said. “It’s been a lot of hard work preparing for this, but I went in with the idea of doing the best I could and making the top five and I accomplished my goal.”

Results of the other South Dakota participants who qualified for the short go included: Tayle Brink (Newell, 11th in the average in goat tying); Jacey Hupp (Huron, 19th in goat tying); Alyssa Lockhart (Oelrichs, 8th in pole bending); Kassidy Boyd (Sioux Falls, 18th in pole bending);and Myles Kenzy (Iona, 17th in boys cutting).