This weekend marked the end of an era. After twenty years of attending youth and MHSRA rodeos, I watched Garris compete in his final state rodeo. Unfortunately, it was not the weekend he expected or wanted.
He couldn’t buy a good catch. He missed both of his tie-down calves. He caught both team roping steers, but during the first run, his heeler missed both shots for the heels. On the second run, Garris missed his dally, his rope popped out of his hand, and he broke the fifth metacarpal bone when his hand hit his horn.
On top of all that, he missed out on winning one of the Montana Hall and Wall of Fame scholarships. Each of his brothers were awarded one of the scholarships and Garris figured he had a pretty good shot at one for himself. It just wasn’t his weekend.
For the first time in seven years of MHSRA competition, Garris did not qualify for the short go at a state rodeo. He missed out for the short go by one spot in tie down and two spots in team roping. As s result, he didn’t make it to Nationals.
Now, going to Nationals is a huge goal. It is prestige, a shot at scholarships, and a chance to move up to the next level of competition. But we parents tend to make it a bigger deal than it should be. We put too much pressure on our kids for one rodeo, once a year. I am just as guilty as anyone else. So, this year, I tried to downplay the importance of Nationals. And when his luck failed him, I said the most positive things I could think of.
I don’t like the way our state rodeo is set up and how points are awarded. Double points at state set it up unfairly. Why? I see it every year that kids who have led standings all season have a bad weekend and end up dropping in the standings and miss out on their chance to go to Nationals. Conversely, kids who have hovered at the low-end of the middle pack have one great weekend and leapfrog over other kids. Those kids qualify for Nationals and go into a competition that they are not even remotely ready for.
Every year, Cyris ended up in the crying hole because he had one bad run or a sub-par weekend. He worked harder than any kid I’ve seen, and his hard work was derailed by stress or a crappy draw. It just never seemed fair to me, and ultimately it ended up souring him on rodeo competition.
Some might say that kids should be able to handle the stress. But should they be put into that situation? It’s easy to say that state is just another rodeo, but in reality, every kid knows how much weight is on every run.
I wish the high school association would adopt the same process as college: whoever has the most total points at the end of the last regular season rodeo gets to go to Nationals. Every point counts. And there are only eight total weekends of competition – four in the fall and four in the spring.
We are done with high school rodeo, so the format doesn’t apply to us any longer. And changing it into something similar to college would turn it into a trailer race. But I don’t see how it’s much different than what it is right now. Many of the families already spend eight to ten weekends each fall and spring to get their kids to as many rodeos as possible. If districts would come back, that would limit how many rodeos each kid can go to. That would eliminate the trailer race aspect and put everyone on a level playing level. And it would eliminate the stress-filled weekend of a state rodeo that determines who goes to Nationals.
As I look back over the past twenty years and replay my boys’ rodeo careers thus far, I realize how quickly those years flew by. I can remember so clearly when Garris first picked up a rope. He was two years old. By the time he was three, he was roping a dummy. And by four, he was competing in pee wee events at the rodeos.
Now, he’s eighteen and ready to launch into the world. He still has rodeo goals. He wanted to compete in NRA rodeos this summer, as well as Wrangler ropings. But a broken hand is going to force him to change that plan. He still wants to someday qualify for the NFR. Right now, his favorite, and best, event is tie down roping.
He was disappointed in failing to make the short go. But he came to terms with it pretty quickly.
In the big picture, not qualifying for Nationals wasn’t such a bad thing. The weekend could have been much, much worse. Even though he broke his hand, at least he didn’t lose any fingers. And he may not have made Nationals, but he has four years of college rodeo to look forward to.
He has had some horse power issues this spring, and I don’t think his horse would have been competitive at the National level. So it’s probably a blessing in disguise. Traveling to Lincoln, Nebraska, would have been expensive. He would have had to miss about ten days of work. And the competition would have been much more stressful than state. So, at the end of the weekend, I don’t think he was terribly upset about where he ended up.
I honestly think this gave Garris more incentive to work harder to prove himself at the collegiate level. I think his pride was damaged more than his hand. He has always been one of the kids to beat in calf roping. And usually, he steps up and makes at least one great run during the state rodeo. This year, it just didn’t materialize. And I think that bothered him more than missing out on the National team.
For me, I was relieved that his high school career ended as it did. He has struggled the past two years with academics. I was just thankful he received his diploma and has been accepted into UM-Western at Dillon.
As the flag drops on high school competition, a whole new world opens up for him starting in the fall. Hello world. Garris is on his way.