Rock Springs, WY (P. Murray)- The 63rd Annual Wyoming High School Finals Rodeo will feature approximately 200 competitors from high schools across the state on June 5th through 10th at the Sweetwater Events Complex. The top four competitors in each event will move on to the 2017 National High School Finals Rodeo at the Cam-Plex in Gillette July 16th through 22nd.
“Wyoming is one of the few states in the country where every high school rodeo participant can compete in the state finals if they want,” said Dixie Huxtable, Wyoming High School Rodeo Association National Director. “Contestants in the state high school rodeo finals don’t have to pre-qualify, just so they’re in good standing with their schools, with their grades okay.”
Approximately 250 high school youth participate in rodeo competitions in Wyoming; the season starts in the fall and goes through the spring, with competitions taking place around the state, Huxtable said. “Around 50 or so of the kids drop out because of injuries or other reasons,” she added, leaving usually just under 200 high school rodeo youth showing up at the state finals competition.
The competition is stiff in each event to see who the lucky four contestants will be in each event who will represent Wyoming at nationals. Competition is held in tie-down, team roping, steer wrestling, breakaway roping, goat-tying, bareback bronc riding, saddle bronc riding, pole bending, barrel racing, bull riding, cutting, reined cow horse, and sport shooting.
“It’s a complicated point system, so complicated I don’t want to go into it,” Huxtable said. “It’s not complicated to me because I’ve been doing it for 30 years.” Huxtable did explain that the points are a result of each contestant’s best rodeo scores during the regular season, and their scores during the state finals. The top 15 competitors in each event will meet on Saturday, the last day of the state high school finals rodeo, to square off and determine who goes to Gillette for the 2017 National High School Finals Rodeo.
The National High School Finals Rodeo will return to the Sweetwater Events Complex in 2018 and 2019, and then periodically thereafter on a rotating basis.
Many of the contestants at the Wyoming High School Finals Rodeo know that they do not have a strong chance of moving on to nationals, and so the state finals rodeo organizers try to make the event extra special for all of the youth competing at the event, Huxtable explained.
“On Wednesday evening of the state finals we have prom night for the kids,” Huxtable said. “Many of them miss their local high school proms because they’re competing in rodeos, so we have a prom night for the youth at the state finals rodeo. It’s kind of a cowboy prom, with a lot of the boys dressing in cowboy tuxedos. The kids really enjoy that.”
The Sweetwater Events Complex will host the Wyoming State High School Rodeo in 2018 and 2019 along with the National High School Finals Rodeo. The complex will then have to bid on state again during their bidding process. The National High School Finals Rodeo will then return to the Sweetwater Events Complex in 2024 and 2024.