National Junior High Finals Rodeo

Locals leave finals with experience, no hardware

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

CHURCH ROCK, N.M., July 5, 2012

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(Courtesy photo - NHSRA/

Brimhall, N.M., cowgirl Faith Holyan and her horse, Solomon, get safely around the third barrel at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo Saturday night at Red Rock Park. Holyan completed her run in 16.285 seconds in the short round and finished the average in 11th place with an aggregate of 48.901 seconds.

O nce again, the National Junior High Finals Rodeo featured the best of the best.

Over 900 contestants from across the United States, Canada and Australia competed at the annual event but only 17 were crowned national champions.

Though no local contestants were part of that distinguished group of 17, those like Ryan Cody Nez were still in the hunt last Saturday night.

Nez put it best when he said that making the short round was just as gratifying.

"As a junior high competitor, it's a dream to make the short round," he said. "It's just an honor to make the top twenty."

Nez finished his last year as a junior-high competitor with a 17th-place finish in the tie-down event.

After breaking the barrier and finishing the first-round with a 21.161-second run, the soon-to-be Shiprock High freshman bounced back with a sizzling time of 14.439 in the second go-round.

"I had a good draw," Nez said of his second calf, adding that he had a chance to be under the 10-second mark.

"I think I could have been a slow eight or high nine," he said, "but my horse didn't back up enough."

In the short round, Nez felt that he had another good draw but said he didn't take full advantage of the situation as his rope came up short of lassoing the calf.

"I hesitated," he said. "I saw an opportunity, but I didn't take it."

Next season, Nez plans to compete in team roping, steer wrestling and tie-down roping as a high school participant.

Rory Billie Jr., of Dilkon, Ariz., was another local contestant who made the short round by virtue of covering one draw in the bull-riding event.

In the first round, the 13-year-old Winslow Junior High eighth-grader got tossed and had six days to think about his next draw.

"My legs popped up and my bull got away from me," he said of his first draw. "I was probably on him for about three seconds."

But on his next bull, Billie went the distance a posted a 73-point ride.

"He came out straight and at the end he kind of turned back," he said. "He had a couple of high kicks but I had to make it work."

In the short round though he didn't make the whistle and finished the average in a four-way tie for 14th place.

"It just wasn't my day," he said. "I kind of slid over to the side and then the bull stepped on my ankle."

As a first-time qualifier, he's hoping that this will help his confidence for next year as he moves up to the high school ranks.

"I want to make the finals again," he said. "It's a cool experience."

For Faith Holyan, the experience of competing in her first junior high finals was just as exciting as it was nerve-wracking.

"I am relieved that it's over now," said Holyan, who finished 11th overall in the barrel-racing field with a 48.901 aggregate.

"I am happy that I competed," she said. "I have to thank God for sending me so many blessings because this was a great experience for me and my horse. I feel a lot tougher than I did before coming here."

Holyan said the competition was fierce but "I was right there with them."

With that said, the home-schooled sixth grader posted the third fastest time in the first go-round as she crossed the finish line in 15.969 seconds.

"This was one of his best runs all year," she said of her horse, Solomon. "I think he was excited to be there and he wanted to run."

In the next round, they covered the cloverleaf pattern in 16.647 seconds before they closed out the rodeo with a 16.285 run, which placed her in 10th place in the short round.

In that final run, she was the fifth contestant to come out just before the tractor rake.

"It actually can be a huge factor," she said of running before a rake. "It could help you or break you but when I went out there I thought the ground was pretty good. My horse handled it the best he could."

Needless to say, they survived a scare as they almost knocked over the third barrel.

"I think I pushed him a little further into it," she said. "I thought it was going down but when it comes to that it's all about reflexes."

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