Tohatchi cowgirl fulfills destiny, becomes state goat tying champion

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

PAYSON, Ariz., June 20, 2013

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TOP: Aiesha Curley


S he had quite a reputation to live up to.

But when it finally happened Tohatchi, N.M. cowgirl Aiesha Curley let out a sigh of relief as she claimed the year-end title for the Arizona High School Rodeo Association over the weekend in the goat-tying event.

Curley entered the state finals trailing by six points but after producing three solid runs, which included two first-place finishes and a second-place effort, the soon-to-be Gallup High senior finished nine points ahead of second-place finisher Arianna Assign of Oracle, Ariz., in the year-end standings.

"When the short go started I was a little nervous but I tried to stay focused and keep calm," said Curley, who finished the year with 145 points. "All I wanted to do was be consistent and make another smooth run."

In the short round, she completed her run in 8.33 seconds. In the opening round, she tied her goat in 8.73 and followed that with an 8.01 for a three-run aggregate of 25.07 seconds.

She's hoping to carry that momentum into next month's National High School Finals Rodeo. The finals will take place at the Sweetwater Events Complex in Rock Springs, Wyo., on July 14-20.

Curley said it felt good to come out on top but throughout the rodeo season she put a lot of pressure on herself to win this year's state crown.

"I placed fifth last year and I missed going to nationals," she said. "It was kind of sad but I knew that I would do better this year if I really worked hard at it."

And while she showed the passion and the heart to win state, Curley had another reason to succeed. Her mom, Iskradel Benally Curley, was a high school state goat-tying champion.

"She is trying to follow her mom's legacy," Aiesha's dad, Darryl Curley said. "She was the New Mexico state champion in 1993."

When asked about fulfilling her destiny, Curley said it was nice to finally get that monkey off her back.

"My mom talks about that all the time," she said. "She reminded me of what it takes to be a champion so I've been constantly working on my game."

Curley said the hardest part about goat tying is getting the dismount right.

"That determines how fast your run is going to be," she said.

At the state finals, Curley also competed in the breakaway event and placed second in the third round with a time of 2.61 seconds.

"It was a good draw," said Curley, who missed the top 10 ranking with 38 points.

Finishing ahead of Curley was Cornfields, Ariz., cowgirl Taniah Nez.

Nez entered the state finals holding down the 10th seed. But after the three-day finals, Nez moved up four spots in the standings.

The Ganado High sophomore won the opening round and set the pace with a sizzling 2.27 run.

Prior to that performance, Nez participated in a jackpot roping as each cowgirl got a chance to see how the calves ran with two runs.

"I roped my first calf but I broke the barrier," Nez admitted. "On my second one I ear-topped it so I was determined to get my first calf roped."

But at the state finals, the order of events was changed as they had the breakaway roping ahead of the goat-tying event.

"I was running pretty late because I thought goats were going to go first," Nez said. "I had to hurry up and gather my stuff so I didn't have any splint boots to protect my horse."

Not only that, she was the first contestant on the list so that made things even more interesting.

"I was in a rush but I knew I had to get my calf caught to get some points," Nez said. "And when I roped it I thought I broke the barrier but when they said it was clean that was the happiest moment of my life."

Nez said that was the fast run she recorded this year during the high school rodeo season. She nearly matched that in the short round as she finished fifth with a time of 2.95 seconds.

And although she did not make the finals, Nez said she's feeling pretty confident about next year as she tries to earn her second bid at nationals. At the junior high level, she qualified in the ribbon roping with partner Ryan Cody Nez.

"Next year I hope that I'll do a lot more rodeos and get better at roping," she said. "I'm going to try and catch all of my draws so that I can go to nationals again."

At the state finals, Nez also participated in the goat tying as well as the team roping with partner Riadal Nelson of White Cone, Ariz.

"We just teamed up together," she said, while adding that she started the season with a different partner.

As to why she competing in the goat tying, she said "I'm just using this for practice so that I can build my skills back up."

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