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NHSRA contestants will convene in Gillette for championship

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Ninth through 12th grade high school students from across 43 U.S. states, five Canadian provinces, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand will be making their way to Gillette to compete in the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) Finals Rodeo July 17-23. 

The NHSRA is an international, nonprofit organization dedicated to developing sportsmanship, horsemanship and character in youth through the sport of rodeo.

Champions will be crowned in the following categories: all-around cowgirl, all-around cowboy, NHSRA Queen, steer wrestling, barrel racing, light rifle, trap shooting, breakaway roping, pole bending, goat tying, tie-down roping, saddle bronc riding, girls cutting, boys cutting, bareback riding, bull riding, team roping and reined cow horse. 

NHSRA events and roles 

NHSRA Executive Director James Higginbotham has been involved with the association serving as the Arkansas National Director since 1985. Roughly 10 years ago, Higginbotham moved to Denver, Colo. to serve in his current role. 

“We have two major events –the Junior High National Finals Rodeo in June for fifth through eighth grade students and the upcoming National High School Finals Rodeo for ninth through 12th grade students,” says Higginbotham. “We also have some activities going on during the year such as our mid-year meeting in January. In addition, we participate in the trade show during the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association National Finals Rodeo in December and we have two quarterly meetings a year.” 

Qualification and finals

From September to May, contestants are competing for points in their state’s, province’s or country’s qualifying rodeos. The top contestants earn their way to compete at their association’s finals. The top four contestants in each event at each finals earn their way to compete at the NHSRA Finals Rodeo. 

For the past several years, the finals rodeo has been in Rock Springs, Lincoln, Neb. and Guthrie, Okla. This year the finals will return to the Cowboy State in Gillette. 

“Everyone is glad to come back to Gillette – it has a great facility there,” notes Higginbotham. “Our entries are higher than they have been in many, many years. We have 1,793 contestants coming, which is up, and of those contestants, there will be 1,964 entries.” 

“It’s awesome the finals will be in Gillette this year – it will be a lot less travel,” shares Wyoming High School Rodeo Association (WYHSRA) Secretary Shelly Thompson. “We know the weather and the facility will be great, so we’re excited to be in Wyoming this year.”  

In addition to the rodeo performances, there will be a variety of activities the contestants will be involved with. There will be a trade show of 135 venders, a volleyball tournament for contestants, knowledge bowl and scholarship interviews.

During the finals NHSRA gives away upwards of $250,000 in scholarship funds with $1.80 million in scholarships given throughout the year. 

“It’s a pretty big event – for instance we have 2,138 competition horses coming, in addition to roughly 250 bucking horses and nearly 135 bucking bulls,” he mentions. “It’s a big deal – there will be roughly 1,500 campers on site so it’s really quite the spectacle for people to come look at, and we have some of the most athletic competitors coming.” 

“The finals is going to be great and hopefully everyone can come out to support Wyoming kids and the whole association,” adds Thompson. 

Wyoming contestants

Several contestants from the Cowboy State are scheduled to compete at the NHSRA finals. 

“We have a great, tough set of kids this year,” mentions Thompson. “It was a knife fight through the end for those kids and they all showed up and did great and WYHSRA is looking forward to watching them compete.”

In the timed steer wrestling event, Bohdi Coombs, Jace Mayfield, Chance Sorenson and Karson Ewing will be competing. 

Cam Johnson, Jace Mayfield, Sid Petersen, Haiden Thompson, Kylder Clark, Jade Espenscheid, Cael Espenscheid and Cord Herring will be competing in the team roping. 

In addition, Cord Herring, Coy Thar, Cory James Bomhoff and Kolton Miller will be competing in tie-down roping.

In the shooting events, Sharianne Brower, Peityn Manor, Tipton Wilson and Jessie Graves will be competing in the shooting rifle competition and Isaac Frandsen, Ryan Nunn, Jessie Graves and Kolton Miller and be competing for gold in the shooting trap competition.

In the breakaway roping, Hadley Furnival, Tavy Leno, Haiden Thompson and Kaeley Hutchinson will be competing. 

Talli Engel, Rayne Grant, Ashlyn Goven and Caitlin Moore will be competing in the pole pending. 

RaeLee Caldwell, Tavy Leno, Haiden Thompson and Rayne Grant will be competing in the goat tying.

In the barrel racing event, Ashlyn Goven, Sydney Oedekoven, Rayne Grant and Jordan Morman will be making appearances. 

In the saddle bronc riding, Norris Graves, Roady Marsh, Jake Schlattmann and Jase Longwell will be competing. 

Jaspur Brower, Tuker Carricato, Grady Edwards and Roedy Farrell will be competing in bareback riding.

In the bull riding event, Brenson Bartlett, Kyle Cheney, Hayden Welsh and Jaspur Brower will be competing. 

Cody Boller, Joseph Hayden, Keyton Hayden and Broc Schwartzkopf will be competing in boys cutting while TeAnna Jolovich, Baliegh Lane, Adeline Morstegaard and Sara Montgomery will be competing in the girls cutting.

Rounding out the contestants in the reined cow horse event is Cooper Justus, Sydnee Roady, Haiden Thompson and Broc Schwartzkopf. 

Getting involved

There is something for everyone in the NSHRA – from junior high to high school contestants. 

“We’ve been in business since 1949 and I would recommend any young person interested get involved in rodeo or equine industry,” Higginbotham says. “On the NHSRA website, a list of national directors and secretaries can be found for each state and province, and they can help interested youth in becoming a member.” 

He shares, young people not interested or able to compete can still be a member by being a non-competing member. 

“Our goal is to get youth interested in rodeo because it’s a lifestyle that teaches a lot of life lessons when they get away from high school and maybe even from rodeo. We have a lot of members go on to get an education to become doctors, lawyers, ranchers, steel workers – they have various fields they get into and it’s amazing to hear them say they learned many of these life lessons when they competed in high school rodeo,” he says. 

In conclusion Higginbotham shares, “We’ve been going to Gillette for the finals since the early 1990s and being able to get to go back is like going back home. If you want to see some good talent, come on out to the national finals beginning July 17.” 

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Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to 

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