Students prepare for rodeo championship in Ponoka

The Ponoka Stampede isn’t the only time to come out and watch cowboys and cowgirls make these physically and mentally challenging events look easy.

Heeler Keely Bonnet and header Walker Galloway participate in team roping in Nanton in May they qualified for the Wrangler Junior Finals Rodeo in Gallop

Heeler Keely Bonnet and header Walker Galloway participate in team roping in Nanton in May they qualified for the Wrangler Junior Finals Rodeo in Gallop

Each and every year thousands of people look forward to the Ponoka Stampede, but June 25 to July 1 isn’t the only time to come out and watch cowboys and cowgirls make these physically and mentally challenging events look easy.

The Alberta High School Rodeo Association provincial finals will take place at the Stampede Grounds on June 12 at 11 a.m., June 13 at 9 a.m. and June 14 at 9 a.m. and will showcase the talents of 30 Alberta contestants in 11 events, each vying for one of the four spots available to attend at the 61st National High School Finals Rodeo in Farmington, NM from July 19 to 25.

Wacey Finkbeiner, 16, Mack Smith, 17, Teneal Clemmer, 14, Jordon Smith, 14, Logan Bonnett, 15, and Sheldon Stretch, 16, from Ponoka Composite High School, Daniel and Alex Ansell, 17, from St. Augustine School and Britany Bonnet, 15, from the Ponoka Outreach School each look forward to competing at this level.

“There will be some great competition which makes for great watching,” said Mack Smith who will do team roping at the finals but not saddle bronc riding because he recently broke his ankle.

“It’s something I’ve been doing for a long time, something I enjoy doing, and I’m looking forward to next week,” he said. Smith has made it to the provincial finals three years in a row.

Pole bender, goat tier, and breakaway roper, Britany Bonnett agreed.

“It’s great experience and a lot of fun,” she said. “I’m pretty confident in myself and my horses and hope to make it to nationals again.”

Bonnet was at the annual Wrangler Junior High Finals Rodeo held in Gallop, NM last year. Her brother, Keely Bonnett, a Grade 7 student as Diamond Willow Middle School, has already earned his spot on the Alberta Wrangler Junior High Rodeo Team and will travell with fellow teammates to Gallup, NM from June 28 to July 4. He will compete at the fifth annual Wrangler Junior High Finals Rodeo (WJHFR) in chute dogging, ribbon roping, team roping and breakaway roping. Sam Smith, a Grade 7 student from Rimbey, will be Bonnett’s roping partner.

Walker Galloway, a Grade 6 student at Diamond Willow Middle School who was named provincial rookie of the year at the finals held in Nanton May 15 and 16, also qualified for the nationals in the team roping event and will be doing the heading for Bonnet. Ponoka’s Nick Smith and Jenny Massing competed in the rodeo finals as well.

An estimated 1,500 contestants from 41 states, five Canadian provinces, and Australia will vie for national titles, assorted prizes and their share of more than $200,000 in college scholarships at the NHSFR.

Featuring more than 1000 contestants from 47 states, five Canadian provinces and Australia, the WJHFR will have for more than $75,000 in prizes up for grabs with contestants will also vying for more than $50,000 in college scholarships and the chance to be named the WJHFR national champion. To earn this title, contestants must finish in the top twenty after two go-rounds of competition before advancing to the final championship performance.

To follow the daily results of each competition, visit www.nhsra.com and follow the links.