ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. — For some of the most decorated and experienced Intermountain High School Rodeo Team members, only one week of events stands between them and the end of their amateur rodeo statuses. For graduated seniors like Michael Pederson, Koty Kamm and Callahan Crossley, only the 2012 National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyo., remains.
The national finals begin Sunday at the Sweetwater Events Complex and feature one of the largest entry fields of any rodeo in the country. The top four finishers from a year’s worth of rodeo events from each state — along with several Canadian provinces and some international countries — earned a trip to Wyoming and a chance to win a national title.
The competitors will run through two performances each day from Sunday through the following Saturday. The short-go final round will take place on Saturday, July 21, at 7 p.m.
The Intermountain team has the talent to bring back national championships, adviser Curtis Pederson said. But even if they don’t and the expectations fall a little short of reality, Pederson said he anticipates seeing these same names winning plenty more rodeos down the line.
“As far as the Intermountain club, we’ve got some upperclassmen who’ve been there a lot, who’ve really excelled in their expertises,” he said. “For the state level too, this is as deep of a team as we’ve sent to nationals in a long, long time. These are kids that will have big names in pro rodeo in the near, near future.”
At the national finals, Intermountain team members will be competing on the same side as their Oregonian brethren. Team titles will be handed out to the highest scoring girls’ and boys’ states.
On the Intermountain team, Hermiston’s Michael Pederson is one who knows his way around the national rodeo scene already. Pederson is making his fourth straight trip to nationals. Though Pederson finished as the reserve all-around champion in the Oregon High School State Finals Rodeo in Prineville in June, he’ll compete in only the tie-down roping in Rock Springs.
He placed just outside the qualifiers in team roping, competing in that event at the Silver State International Rodeo in Nevada — a rodeo for fifth through 15th-place finishers.
Stanfield’s Kamm has also been around the nationals for four years now. He tied for fourth place in steer wrestling for the state, earning a trip to Wyoming as part of a five-cowboy steer wrestling group. He’ll also do cow cutting.
For the cowgirls, Callahan Crossley will give Intermountain a shot at an all-around winner. Crossley, of Hermiston, will be busy all week with a trifecta of event entries. She finished the Oregon campaign fourth in breakaway roping and third in barrel racing, and also in the Top 4 in cow cutting. She was the third-placer in the all-around cowgirl standings for the state.
Though Kaci Kamm finished ahead of Crossley on the state all-around leaderboard for the season in second place, she’ll have a tough time maintaining that lead at the nationals. Kamm, a Stanfield resident, ranked third in the breakaway and will only take to the arena in the one event.
Both Crossley, a recent graduate, and Kamm, who just finished her sophomore year, are returners from last year’s national field.
Back on the cowboys’ side, a pair of bull riders will represent the Intermountain high schoolers. Pendleton’s Cain Smith ranked tied for first in the year-long standings. His rides in the early rounds of the Oregon finals kept him tied at the top despite a no score in the short-go. He’ll ride against teammate Sid Britt. The Hermiston cowboy just made the cut for nationals in fourth place.
Britt will also shoot in the trap shooting competition.
The final local cowboy making the trip, Pendleton’s Pake Sorey, will try his hand at tie-down roping after a fourth-place finish in the state. A sixth boy, Jarred Livingston, competed at the Silver State rodeo in tie-down roping and team roping and opted not to travel to the national finals where he’d qualified in trap shooting.
Blake Greenup wraps up the Intermountain team’s qualifiers. The Heppner girl ranked second in pole bending in Oregon and will see how she fares against the rest of the nation.
The high school season that started around spring’s first thaw is finally at its end and miraculously, every Intermountain contestant left in the field is largely without injury, Pederson said, even the rough stock riders. With whole bodies ready to go, the riders and ropers are likely to fare better.
“Everybody's going into nationals healthy and pretty much injury free,” he said. “So that’s a serious plus.”
The National High School Finals Rodeo Association will provide day-of video feeds for each performance. Video can be accessed online at www.nhsra.com.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at email@example.com or 541-966-0839.