The Alberta High School Rodeo Finals are held every spring at the Ponoka Stampede Grounds and for three of Ponoka competitors June 13 to 15 was the last time they would ride in that rodeo.
For Keely Bonnett (team roping, tie-down roping and steer wrestling), Jenny Massing (goat tying and breakaway roping), and Tana Millard Lahue (pole bending and barrel racing), high school graduation means leaving behind the high school rodeos.
Despite her best efforts and aggressive riding, Massing wasn’t able to make it to the National High School Rodeo Finals this year, coming in just below the bar and placing fifth in goat tying. “That’s the event I made it down to nationals last year.”
Her three breakaway roping runs also did not go as planned. “I did not perform like I should have.”
While every rodeo competitor comes in to the Alberta High School Finals with nationals in their mind, Massing knows not everyone can go. “It can’t work 100 per cent of the time or it wouldn’t be a sport.”
However, not making nationals does not mean Massing’s weekend was without its share of accomplishments. With her runs on day one dubbed “ok” and a “kicker goat” eating up the seconds on day two, Massing’s biggest personal win happened on day three and provided the big finale of her Alberta High School Finals career.
Her final goat was tied in 7.9 seconds, “which was the fastest time in the spring for me.”
Massing says high school rodeo has fostered a lot of personal growth in her over the last four years. “Being in Division 2 with the stiff competition year after year has been a major factor in how I’ve grown and improved.”
In August, Massing will be heading south of the border to attend Western Oklahoma State College to earn a degree in behaviour studies and compete in large college rodeos in the area. “I got a full scholarship and was asked to go.”
Massing will, however, also be attending the 2014 Canadian High School Finals Rodeo.
Millard Lahue did not make the Nationals or Canadian High School Finals Rodeo, either, with the tough competition and fast times in her two events keeping her home this year.
“I really enjoyed my years here. I’m going to be sad to leave but I’ve had a good year,” said Millard Lahue.
Like Massing, one of her biggest high school rodeo accomplishments was achieved recently, three weeks ago at the Drayton Valley High School Rodeo. In one of her pole bending runs, she rode the course in 20.8 seconds. “I was really excited.”
She feels the lesson competing taught her was how to be humble, how to lose and win, and how to make friends.
In the fall, Millard Lahue is attending Red Deer College to get her schooling and become a dentist. “I’ll probably go on to pro rodeo. My mom (Dena Millard) was a pro rodeo barrel racer.”
Bonnett did make the National High School Finals, July 13 to 19 in Rock Springs, Wyo., in the team and tie-down roping events. “I’m excited . . . I’m ready to win.”
Bonnett and his roping partner, Ponoka’s Grade 11 student Walker Galloway, ended the regular season as team roping season leaders, and the boys are known for finishing the season at the high end of the competition between the three divisions.
On the last two days, Bonnett came in first in both events he is heading to Wyoming for, but says the finals had a rough start this year. “The first day was a little slow.”
In his first team roping performance, header Galloway missed the steer, leaving the boys with no time and taking them out of the average.
Bonnett also recently purchased his pro card. He’s been attending pro rodeos for the last few years and has won the $2,000 needed to get the card. “With my card, if I win enough money, I have the chance to Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton in November.”
“When I was little, that’s all I wanted,” he added.
Bonnett also received a rodeo scholarship to attend New Mexico’s state college come September.
With Bonnett graduating this year and his partner left with one more year of school, Galloway had to find a new roping partner in Quentin Branden. The two boys used to rope together at junior high rodeos.