Stepping it up

Bull-riding duo stage comeback, qualify for junior high nationals

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, June 7, 2012

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(Times photo - Paul Natonabah)

Ky Farland will compete in the National Junior High Finals at Red Rock Park June 24 to 30.

T he first half of the junior high rodeo season remains a blur for Rory Billie and Ky Farland.

Both cowboys were merely trying to find their footing within the bull-riding ranks of the Arizona Junior High Rodeo Association.

But after logging in six rodeos, both cowboys seemed to be down on their luck as they were shutout each time.

It's not the kind of start they envisioned, but in the weeks leading up to the state finals they salvaged their year by covering two bulls at a rodeo in Wilcox.

That finish ultimately earned them berths to the National Junior High Finals Rodeo, which will be held at Red Rock Park June 24 to 30.

"I didn't cover any bulls until then," Billie said of the Wilcox rodeo, which was held during the April 21-22 weekend. "I got bucked off a lot, but I knew that I was going to cover a bull."

At that rodeo Billie turned in a pair of 60-point rides and finished second on both days. On the first day he finished right behind Farland, who won the rodeo with a 61-point ride.

The next day, Billie finished second to Beau McVicker of Coolidge while Farland placed third with a 58-point ride.

With that both cowboys entered the final leg of the season with 18 points each and after covering two of three bulls at the state finals in Prescott, Farland finished the year as the reserve champion with 41.50 points in the overall season standings.

Billie, meanwhile, finished in third place with 40 points.

"I just stepped it up at the last two rodeos," Farland said, who is headed to nationals for the second year in a row.

The Kayenta seventh grader said he didn't do too well at nationals last year, but with a year under his belt he's expecting to go out as a winner.

"I was just inexperienced and I was real nervous," Farland said when asked what he remembered most about last year's finals.

"But this year I want to make the short round," he said.

To help him achieve that goal, Farland said he's been getting on bigger bulls since that's the type of competition he'll see.

"The bulls they use (at the finals) are big and aggressive," he said.

His father, Joe Farland, agreed.

"Last year he just got started with riding the bigger bulls," Joe said. "It was really rough on him because they were using some auction and try-out bulls.

"To me he looked like he was a monkey on a football," he said, "but he has more experience riding those kinds of bulls."

The elder Farland said his son has significantly improved his posture, which allows him to stay on the bulls.

"He's sitting up a lot more," Joe Farland said. "He's using his feet to stay in the ride."

The younger Farland demonstrated that at the Treaty Days junior rodeo in Window Rock last Friday morning as he scored a 70-point ride on Shake Down.

Billie, on the other hand, just missed the whistle as he got bucked off his bull, Hostage.

"I was that close," Billie said while holding his right thumb and index finger a quarter-inch apart. "But I had fun."

As a first-time qualifier, the Dilkon, Ariz., bull rider said he's looking forward to the competition even though he has mixed feelings about it.

"I'm kind of nervous about it," Billie said, who just finished his eighth grade year at Winslow Junior High. "I heard there is going to be a lot of people watching, but I think I'll be ready."

Besides Billie and Farland, Team Arizona will also be represented by Shannon Riggs and Trevor Tsosie as the Tuba City team ropers finished fourth in the year-standings. Both cowboys finished with 65.50 points.

In New Mexico, which is the host state, eight local contestants qualified for nationals.

Four of those qualifiers were crowned state champions at last month's state finals in Lovington.

Erik Becenti finished out the season with 83.5 points to lead the field in the boys' breakaway roping while Faith Holyan racked up 82 points and garnered the barrel racing title. Holyan also got qualified in the ribbon roping with partner Ryan Cody Nez.

In team roping, Brent Jodie and Karlex Capitan finished the year with 82 points for top honors. Capitan also made nationals with a third-place finish in the boys' breakaway.

Other qualifiers include: Ryan Cody Nez (calf roping and ribbon roping), Malachi Pablo (ribbon roping and bull riding), Rooster Yazzie (boys' breakaway) and Zane Munoz (boys' goat tying).

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