A gathering of the best high school rodeo athletes in South Dakota shared the spotlight on Sunday afternoon as the 2018 Wrangler 20X High School Rodeo Showcase highlighted Sutton Rodeo’s Rodeo Rapid City at the Civic Center’s Barnett Arena.

Despite the fact that the midwinter event often catches many of the athletes--most of whom compete in winter sports--short on practice time and not in the finest of fettle, a number of excellent times and scores were posted on Sunday.

Perhaps none of the talented group of athletes had a better day than Trista Reinert. The Wall High School senior opened the days proceedings by performing an impressive rendition of the National Anthem, and then capped off her big day moments later by winning the girls pole bending event in a quick 20.930 second run.

“It has been a big day, hasn’t it,” Reinert said afterwards. “Getting to sing the national anthem was definitely a great honor. I haven’t done so well in the past and since this is my last year this is pretty sweet. I’ve only practiced twice since August, and I’m on my sister’s horse which I haven’t ran in poles for at least two years. That was a great effort today and I’m so proud of him.”

Riley Donnelly (Elk Point, 21.060) and Sydney Fuerst (Belle Fourche, 21.360) turned in quality spins through the poles as well.

While Reinert opened 20X in stirring fashion, bull rider Hunter Johnson, a Kadoko senior, closed out the day’s program with a similarly scintillating performance with a 70 point ride on a twisting bull that ducked back late contributing to an awkward and painful dismount.

“I took a horn to the lower back and it’s kind of spazzing out a little bit,” said Johnson with the nonchalance that bull riders easily muster. “He was a good little bull and you just have to get back to the front end on him after every single jump or he’s going to get you off. I haven’t been on a bull for two months, and I wasn’t sure what to expect so I’m pretty pleased.”

Zach Faehnrich of Mobridge also turned in a qualified bull ride with a 67 point trip.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Taylor Hanson won girls barrel racing (13.695 seconds) besting St. Thomas More’s Jessica Peterson (14.063). The Belle Fourche senior hasn’t seen anything but W’s this winter in her athletic endeavors as she is the starting point guard on the undefeated Belle Fourche basketball team.

“It’s been good so far for sure,’ Hanson said. “I haven’t been able to ride since the start of the basketball season, but the Black Hills Rodeo coach let me in and I practiced at Seven Downs the other day and I had a good run over there which helped my confidence. I’ve been here twice and none of those went well so this felt good.”

Lante Swallow capped off a big weekend nipping Jose Aliniz Jr (Faith) in bareback riding (66-65). On Saturday, the Little Wound junior claimed the 160 pound weight class in the Red Cloud wrestling meet.

“I had a good horse though maybe a little wild and I didn’t feel I did my best, not my best ride for sure, but I got the job done,” Swallow said. “It’s honor to be here. I’ve never competed in the 20X before but my family has been here for years and I have generations behind me. I’m grateful for that and am glad that I can ride for my family.”

Breakaway roper Sawyer Gilbert, a state champion and National Team qualifier as a freshman continued to put up the top numbers in her specialty recording a 2.64 second roping effort to edge Jaicee Williams of Wall (3.42).

Though pleased with her quicktime, Gilbert came in confident that her lengthy practice times would pay off.

“We have a barn at home and I practice a lot,” said the Harding County sophomore. “I liked the run a lot but we have enough horses and with the pen and the weather being nice, I’ve been able to practice. And with that you are able to keep your mental game and keep your horses ready and be able to believe in yourself.”

While good times were posted in most of the events, the boys steer wrestling and saddle bronc competitors came up empty without a single qualified time or score recorded.

Perhaps most surprising was the shutout in saddle bronc as the field featured Phillip’s Dylan Schofield, a reserve National High School Champion in 2015, and Wall’s Cash Wilson, fifth in Nationals last summer.

A too tough pen of bucking horses?

“I don’t think so,” said Schofield. “I’ve been here a couple years now and while the horses are usually tough I think it’s more that we are all out of shape and are not used to getting on horses like this. We are going to start practicing here shortly and you’ll see a lot better.”

Other 20X winners on Sunday--all with quality times--included Trevor Olson (Newell, tie-down roping, 10.50 seconds), Mikenzy Miller (Faith, goat tying, 6.62 seconds), and Wyatt Tibbitts (Hot Springs) & Payton Pirrung (Hartford) in team roping (6.12 seconds).

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