Columbia teen likes to know about horses

Farm Forum

The span of 24 seconds doesn’t seem like a lot, but for Colt Hokana of Columbia, it was enough time to bring home a state championship.

Hokana made qualified rides on all three of his horses at the South Dakota High School Rodeo Association finals in Belle Fourche last weekend. The performance captured the state title in the bareback riding event and earned Hokana a trip to the national high school finals. For his efforts, Hokana is the American News Athlete of the Week.

“It felt really great,” said Hokana, who will be a senior at Groton High School in the fall. “I’ve tried to (win) it the past two years and got hurt at the region. It’s really awesome to win it.”

Hokana, 17, was the only rider of three entered to cover all of his horses. He scored a 65 the first day and a 60 in the second round, followed by a 54 in the short-go for an average total of 179. He wasn’t familiar with any of the horses, but was able to gather some information before each ride.

“I knew the stock contractors and they help you out,” Hokana said. “They tell you what (kind of horses) they are, if they’ve been out a lot, what they did last.”

However, it’s not always in Hokana’s best interest to know a lot about an animal.

“A lot of times, I just kind of like to go ahead and ride and not know,” he said.

Hokana has a lot to show for his three rides, collecting a saddle for winning the state title, plus a belt buckle for each round won. He also received a Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association certificate, which he can use once he turns 18 to enter pro rodeos. Hokana will be 18 on Sept. 21.

Hokana also competed in the tie-down roping and team roping events this year, but his results in those “weren’t so good,” he said. In team roping, his partner was Alaina Stangle of Philip. Hokana said he and Stangle plan to enter some upcoming 4-H rodeos this summer.

“Her dad used to be a bareback rider, and helped me quite a bit, too,” Hokana said.

This was Hokana’s second trip to the state finals, as he qualified in calf roping last season. To qualify, a contestant must have scored at least three points in an event throughout the rodeo season. Coming into the finals, Hokana had nine points in calf roping, seven in team roping and 30 in bareback riding.

Hokana said he knew both of his competitors in the bareback event, Seth Rice of Spearfish and Trae Edoff of Fairfax. Even though the three were competing against each other, help and advice were given freely.

“They are both good friends,” Hokana said. “Each round, there were horses that had already been out. Seth drew a horse (I’d been on) and I told him what I did, and I drew a horse that Trae had been on, and he told me what he did.”

The rodeo season generally runs from March until October. Hokana said he went to about 25 rodeos last year and hopes to get to more this year.

Growing up around horses, getting into the sport of rodeo was a natural fit for Hokana.

“My parents have pictures of me on a horse when I was little,” he said. “My parents have always been around horses, and my dad used to rodeo.”

Already a veteran of many rodeos, Hokana isn’t too stressed when it comes to climbing on the back of a bucking horse.

“My dad said he gets more nervous than I do,” Hokana said.

The national high school finals are July 17-24 in Gillette, Wyo. This will be Hokana’s first trip to that event.

“It’s going to be new for me. It will be a blast,” he said. “I’ve talked to some people (who have gone), and they said it’s run like a professional rodeo.”

Even if he doesn’t know anyone at the national finals, Hokana will still be among friends, due to the camaraderie of the sport, which, along with the thrill of riding, keeps him going.

“It’s just a blast riding bucking horses,” he said. “You always have a friend wherever you go. It’s awesome.”

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The Colt Hokana File

Family: Parents, Curt and Merri Hokana.

Favorite athletes: Professional bareback riders Bobby Mote and Will Lowe.

Other events: Calf roping, team roping.

Career best bareback score: Hokana had a 77-point ride at a North Dakota rodeo last summer.

Hobbies: Training horses.

Most memorable athletic accomplishment: Winning the state bareback title at Belle Fourche.