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‘Share it with the Navajo Nation’: WJRA awards rising rodeo athletes at annual banquet

‘Share it with the Navajo Nation’: WJRA awards rising rodeo athletes at annual banquet

WINDOW ROCK – Stars today and champions tomorrow have come true for Western Junior Rodeo Association’s next generation of professional rodeo athletes.

‘Share it with the Navajo Nation’: WJRA awards rising rodeo athletes at annual banquet

Courtesy | Western Junior Rodeo Association
Shambrae Begay smiles with her new saddle during the 2023 Western Junior Rodeo Association banquet at Twin Arrows Resort Casino on Jan. 27, 2024. Begay was selected as the Junior Division 11-14-year-old All-Around Champion, which included team roping and pole bending.

With roughly 180 members categorized in five divisions, five outstanding rodeo athletes were recognized during the annual WJRA 2023 banquet in Twin Arrows, Arizona, on Jan. 27.

WJRA President Jeff Jim encourages WJRA’s young athletes to “keep showing up,” taken from the association’s motto: “No matter where you start, keep showing up.”

“We have world champions coming out of the association,” Jim said. “We have Aaron Tsinigine. He has been a senior boys all-around world champion. We have Derrick Begay. We have Erich Rogers.”

Many ranks have blossomed from WJRA, and Jim encourages the youth to begin where they are because it can be rewarding.

Marking his third term with WJRA, Jim has created bridges for the next generation of Diné rodeo athletes as the association fosters many youngsters from 3 to 18. Jim’s wife, Kim R. Jim, the association’s central entry system-treasurer, said she and her husband think about the kids’ education and culture. She says every aspect of the rodeo is worth the endowment.

“Any opportunity that their kids can look at, too,” Kim said. “Rodeo is an open door to many other things they (youth) could look into.”

Family-oriented

According to the couple, they enjoy the excitement of seeing more emerging rodeo athletes, especially when they become professional rodeo champions.

“Ten years from now, I’m going to hear all those midget and peewees, qualifying for the INFR (Indian National Finals Rodeo),” Kim said. “We see the stories behind––we see the families that come, we do what we do.

‘Share it with the Navajo Nation’: WJRA awards rising rodeo athletes at annual banquet

Courtesy | Western Junior Rodeo Association
All-around champion siblings for their respective divisions, Shilah Williams (left), the Senior Girls Division 15-18-years-old All-Around Champion for barrel racing and pole bending; and Brandon Williams Jr. (right), the Midget All-Around Champion for barrel and flag racing. Both smile with their new saddles during the 2023 Western Junior Rodeo Association banquet at Twin Arrows Casino Resort on Jan. 27, 2024.

“We know rodeo,” she added. “We live it, and we might as well share it with the world––share it with the Navajo Nation.”

Sharing the same journey as his parents, Twister Jim, 17, was celebrated in the Senior Boys Division for his 15-18-year-old All-Around Champion title.

“He had his goal set,” said Jeff Jim, Twister Jim’s father, who said his son wants to pursue rodeo and its opportunities in the future.

“That’s one thing about rodeo, we’re all a close family,” Jeff Jim said.

“It makes me proud,” said Brandon Williams, whose children, Shilah Williams, 16, and Brandon Williams Jr., 7, were rewarded all-around champion in their respective divisions.

“They put a lot of hard work into it,” Brandon Williams of Tuba City said. He said his children set goals yearly, and one was to be at the top of their division.

“Knowing that you helped them down the road,” Brandon Williams said, “whether if it was through entry fees, waking up early in the morning, or taking care of their animals.”

As a WJRA alumnus, Brandon Williams said he admires the fundamental teachings it had taught him and how it still carries the same value as it’s being implemented into his kids.

‘Share it with the Navajo Nation’: WJRA awards rising rodeo athletes at annual banquet

Courtesy | Western Junior Rodeo Association
Twister Jim smiles with his new saddle and buckles after being selected as the Senior Boys Division 15-18-year-old All-Around Champion in tie-down and team roping. Jim and his family celebrated during the 2023 Western Junior Rodeo Association banquet at Twin Arrows Casino Resort on Jan. 27, 2024.

“It’s a good feeling seeing him win a saddle for all-around,” said Eyron Cowboy, the parent of Kaleb Cowboy, 11, a peewee division all-around champion. “Preparing him, he does it all himself.”

Kaleb’s mother, Calandra James, shares the same admiration.

“He has been competing with WJRA since he was 5,” Brandon Williams said. Additionally, his son had to become used to the rodeo athlete life afterward.

Lastly, Shambrae Begay was honored as the junior division all-around champion. Her parents were not available for comments on the deadline Tuesday afternoon.

The WJRA organization and its board nominated Brandon Williams to be the 2024-25 president.

The WJRA organization thanks the Central Navajo Rodeo Association, 2023 INFR Team Roping Champion Dennison Boone, the Navajo Nation Council, and the WJRA board members.

WJRA 2023 presentation

Midget Division: 4-6 years old
* Brandon Williams Jr. – barrel racing, flag racing, goat tagging, wooly riding event winner, and all-around.
* Rookie of the Year – Bailey Nez

Peewee Division: 7-10 years old
* Kaleb Cowboy – all-around
* KayDee Jo Jo Tallsalt – barrel racing
* Kaleb Cowboy – pole bending
* KayDee Jo Jo Tallsalt – goat tying
* Kaleb Cowboy – breakaway roping
* Jace Granger – steer riding
* Rookie of the Year – Jace Granger

Junior Division: 11-14 years old
* Shambrae Begay – all-around
* Jacoby Young – barrel racing
* Shambrae Begay – pole bending
* Koy Largo – goat tying
* Tayowa Chato – breakaway roping
* Jacoby Young – junior bulls
* Shambrae Begay – team roping
* Rookie of the Year – Koy Largo

Senior Girls Division: 15-18 years old

* Shandiin King – team oping
* Shilah Williams – barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping event winner and all-around
* Rookie of the Year – Andreas Yazzie

Senior Boys Division: 15-18 years old

* Twister Jim – all-round
* Diego Begay – saddle bronc
* Alvaro Begay – bareback riding
* Ryen Martin – bull riding
* Twister Jim – tie-down roping
* Geno Mescal – chute dogging
* Tristan Bedonie – ribbon roping
* Twister Jim – team roping
* Rookie of the Year – Geno Mescal


About The Author

Boderra Joe

Boderra Joe is a reporter and photographer at Navajo Times. She has written for Gallup Sun and Rio Grande Sun and has covered various beats. She received second place for Sports Writing for the 2018 New Mexico Better Newspaper Awards. She is from Baahazhł’ah, New Mexico.

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