South Dakota’s top high school rodeo athletes will be heading out west this week looking to mine a little gold — a state championship gold buckle that is — when the 2015 South Dakota Finals High School Rodeo takes place at the Roundup Grounds in Belle Fourche this week.

The 66th annual event began Tuesday and continues through Saturday with the championship short go scheduled for approximately 5 p.m.

Featuring the top point getters from the state’s four rodeo regions — Eastern, River, Northwest and Southwest — the finals rodeo will crown state finals average champions in 13 events. The top four finishers in each event will earn a coveted spot on the South Dakota National Team that will compete in the High School National Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyo., in July.

State qualifiers earned a trip to Belle Fourche by virtue of accumulating points — 30 points the maximum — in the four regional rodeos held in each competitors region.

And while the points earned do carry over to the finals, 60 points will be on the line in each event in Belle Fourche, creating the possibility of a rags to riches scenario should a cowboy our cowgirl who struggled in regions string together stellar performances in the two long rounds and the championship short.

“It really does allow that to happen,” said Ken Lensegrav, River Region Director. “You can come out of nowhere since there are so many points available at state regardless of how you did at regions. And for those who accumulated a lot of points, they can’t just show up and go through the motions and coast, that’s for sure.”

Spearfish's Rickie Engesser, the South Dakota High School Rodeo Student President and last year’s barrel racing average champion, said the script assures outstanding rodeo and a pedal-to-the-metal philosophy each time if one wishes to earn a gold buckle, and equally important, earn a trip to the national finals.

“The way I always look at it like you have a clean slate,” said Engesser, one of eight returning 2014 state champions. “You have to perform to the best of your ability in each round, and if you do that and perform well, you will have a chance to win state and qualify for nationals. So each time I go out hard hoping to perform the way I know how to and let it all play out.”

Other 2014 champions looking to defend their titles include Chet Crago (Belle Fourche) in boys cutting, Cedar Jandreau (Kadoka) in breakaway roping, Lathan Lauing (Oral) in tie-down roping, Taylor Tupper (Belle Fourche) in saddle bronc, Herbie O’Daniel (Kadoka) in steer wrestling and Brent Woodward (Dupree) and Sam Huffman (Belle Fourche) in team roping.

Point leaders coming out of the early June regional rodeos include Sawyer Strand (Harrisburg, 30 points) in boys cutting, Ciara Stoddard (Kadoka, 30) in girls cutting, Dylan Riggins (Kadoka, 30) in bareback; Cedar Jandreau (30) in breakaway roping, Rachael McCoy (Hermosa, 30) in pole bending, 2014 boys all-around champion Brock Belkham (Flandreau, 30) in tie-down roping, Jacob Kammerer (Philip, 29) in saddle bronc, Jacey Hupp (Huron, 30) in goat tying, defending champion O’Daniel (28.5) in steer wrestling and JD Phelps (Thunder Valley, 29) in bull riding.

Belle Fourche High School (Northwest Region) comes in as the defending state champion, although SDHSRA President Lance Lesmeister  points out the depth of South Dakota rodeo talent runs deep statewide.

“The girls in the breakaway roping stand out in terms of balance looking at some of the results around the state and that should be a tough event at state. A couple of guys in the bronc riding looked good, but there are lots of good kids in every event,” Lesmeister said. “And it doesn’t matter what part of the state you look at, there are good ones all over.”

While lack of competition most likely won’t be a problem, the steady diet of recent thunderstorms could create some difficulties, athough Lensegrav is confident that based upon past performances, the Belle Fourche rodeo committee will be able to handle whatever might come its way.

“They do a super job,” Lensegrav said. “The committee works hard to give these kids a good shot, and when we’ve had adverse weather conditions in the past, they’ve come through and done a super job keeping the grounds in shape and keeping them safe for the kids and the horses.”

Engesser, who just returned from watching older sister Taylor Engesser compete in the College National Finals in Casper, Wyo., said that a top notch rodeo run well and lots of old friends make for a special week.

“You don’t very often in other sports get to see everyone coming together as a family,” Rickie Engesser said. “Nobody hopes you do bad or have a poor run. You want to see the best of the best and you want to see everyone do their best and you do your best and let it fall where it may.

“Not very often do you compete against your best friends and support everyone 100 percent knowing that they have your back and will do everything they can to help you do your best, and you are going to do the same for them.”

Following is the contestant list:

JOSEY AASBY, HIGHMORE; CHEYENNE ADAMS, DELL RAPIDS; SUTTON ADAMS, DELL RAPIDS; MEGAN ADAMS, BUFFALO; JAMI ADDISON, MURDO; WYATTE ANDERSEN, HURLEY; SLOAN ANDERSON, WHITE HORSE; TARIN ARNESON, ENNING; TANIELLE ARNESON, ENNING; REED ARNESON, MEADOW; SETH BACH, FLORENCE; BROCK BELKHAM, FLANDREAU; ALEX BERGESON, MITCHELL; KEELAN BIALAS, PARKSTON; JORDAN BICKEL, TRAIL CITY; RACHEL BLAHA, AVON; JOSIE BLASIUS, WALL; HAILEY BLOCK, SISSETON; BAXTER BOLDON, BUFFALO GAP; TAYLOR BOTHWELL, PIERRE; KASSIDY BOYD, SIOUX FALLS; SHANE BOYSEN, SIOUX FALLS; SIDNEY BRASKAMP, WENTWORTH; COLE BREWER, DUPREE; TAYLE BRINK, NEWELL; SIERRA BRODKORB, VIRGIL; WINSTON BROWN, PIEDMONT; REIS BRULEY, WILLOW LAKE; TYLER BYRNE, MARTIN; KALLIE CAREY, HURON; KARISA CARMICHAEL, FAITH; KAELI CARMICHAEL, FAITH; COLLIN CARROLL, HARROLD; TYLER CHRISTENSEN, BERESFORD; TAYLOR CHRISTENSEN, KYLE; TUCKER CHYTKA, BELLE FOURCHE; CASSIDY CLARK, MEADOW; KAYLEE CLARK, BOX ELDER; BRIANNA CLEMETSON, KEYSTONE; SYDNEY COWAN, HARROLD; CHET CRAGO, BELLE FOURCHE; COOPER CRAGO, BELLE FOURCHE; HUNTER CURTIS, FORT PIERRE; JUSTINA CVACH, MIDLAND; SYDNEY DAVIDSON, PARKSTON; MAYSA DAVIDSON, PARKSTON; JR DEES, AURORA; PAYSON DIRK, STURGIS; JILL DONNELLY, ELK POINT; PAYTON DONNELLY, ELK POINT; CYLER DOWLING, NEWELL; PAYTON EAGLE, WINNER; TUCKER EASTON, WESSINGTON SPRINGS; BRAEDEN EDLEMAN, HURON; GRADY EGLY, OELRICHS; TREY ELSHERE, ELM SPRINGS; CARTER ELSHERE, ELM SPRINGS; JACE ENGESSER, SPEARFISH; RICKIE ENGESSER, SPEARFISH; MILES ENGLEBERT, BURDOCK; SIERRA ENRIGHT, TIMBER LAKE; BRITTANY EYMER, SPEARFISH; CAMERON FANNING, OLIVET; RHETT FANNING, MARTIN; WACEY FERGUSON, HERMOSA; ETHAN FERNAU, FAIRFAX; TA’ TE FORTUNE, MILESVILLE; RILEY FORTUNE, QUINN; JAKE FOSTER, MEADOW; RHETT FOX, REDIG; JAKE FRAZIER, WHITE HORSE; ANNIE FULTON, MILLER; DYLAN FULTON, ST. LAWRENCE; WYATT FULTON, ST. LAWRENCE; JARED FULTON, VALENTINE; TORI GAER, NEWELL; SHAMRA GARRETT, DUPREE; MADDIE GARRETT, NISLAND; COY GIANNONATTI, BUFFALO; JACE GIANNONATTI, PHILIP; SHAYNA GOENS, SIOUX FALLS; SIERRA GOERGEN, HURON; CASSITY GOETZ, NEW UNDERWOOD; CARSON GOOD, LONG VALLEY; KAILYN GROVES, FAITH; KALEB HAAS, CANOVA; JERALD HABECK, BELLE FOURCHE; SCOTT HALVERSON, FAIRVIEW, TIERNY HAMLIN, HIGHMORE; TAYLOR HANSON, BELLE FOURCHE; JORDAN HANSON, BELLE FOURCHE; DAVID HARTSHORN, RAPID CITY; WILEY HEATH, COLOME; MAGGIE HEIBERGER, HARTFORD; TAYA HEISINGER, PARKSTON; SHAELYNNE HEITSCH, HERMOSA; RYDER HEITZ, NEWELL; KATE HELMER, ANDOVER; LUKE HENINGER, FORT PIERRE; CASEY HENINGER, FORT PIERRE; COLBY HETZEL, LEMMON; TYLER HINTZ, ABERDEEN; KEITH HODSON, MARTIN; COLT HOKANA, COLUMBIA; HANNA HOSTUTLER, MIDLAND; SHAYLA HOWELL, BELLE FOURCHE; BROOKE HOWELL, BELLE FOURCHE; SAM HUFFMAN, BELLE FOURCHE; ROWDY HUGHSON, ORAL; RIO HULM, FAITH; JENO "JJ" HUNT, DUPREE; JANA HUNT, DUPREE; JEB HUNT, FAITH; JACEY HUPP, HURON; SADEE HURST, BUFFALO; SHEA HUSTED, HARROLD; CEDAR JANDREAU, KENNEBEC; MORGAN JANISCH, LAKE CITY; RANCE JOHNSON, PHILIP; HUNTER JOHNSON, KADOKA; SIARRA JOHNSON, CASTLEWOOD; JEREMIAH JOHNSON, HURON; SAVANA JOHNSTON, ELM SPRINGS; CARLEE JOHNSTON, ELM SPRINGS; CARSON JOHNSTON, ELM SPRINGS; BRODY JONES, MIDLAND; JACOB KAMMERER, PHILIP; LOGAN KENNEDY, VIVIAN; MYLES KENZY, IONA; LUCAS KESSLER, PIERRE; KADE KINSELLA, PIERRE; JAMES JD KIRWAN, SPEARFISH; LANCE KNUTSON, BERESFORD; HALLIE KOCER, LEMMON; ASHLEE KRITENBRINK, BUFFALO GAP; HALLE KROEPLIN, HIGHMORE; MAKAYLA KROEPLIN, HIGHMORE; BLAIR LAMMERS, HARTFORD; JAYCI LAMPHERE, BELLE FOURCHE; HEAVEN LANE, NISLAND; KANE LAPLANTE, CLARK; TRISTIN LAPLANTE, DUPREE; KASEY LARSON, PRAIRIE CITY; KOLE LATHAM,FLANDREAU; LATHAN LAUING ORAL; NATALIE LEISINGER, HIGHMORE; DYLAN LEMMON, EAGLE BUTTE; KELSEY LENSEGRAV, INTERIOR; DALTON LESSERT, MARTIN; ALYSSA LOCKHART, OELRICHS; MARTINA LOOBEY, WHITEWOOD; JOENI LUEDERS, SPEARFISH; SKYLER LUTTER, ZELL; EMMA LUTTER, ZELL; CASS LYTLE, QUINN; SYDNEY MAHER, TIMBER LAKE; RIELEY MAIER, BOWDLE; CASSIDY MARCH, HOT SPRINGS; RICH MARONE, CHAMBERLAIN; ALIESHA RAE MCCARTHY, MILLER; RACHAEL MCCOY, HERMOSA; COURTNEY MCDONNELL, MARTIN; MALARY MCKENNEY, CROOKS; HARLEE JO MCKENNEY, PARKER; CHAYSE MCKENNEY, PARKER; MARTY MCPHERSON, PEIDMONT; KASSI MCPHERSON, RAPID CITY; EMILEE MENDEL, BALTIC; EMMA MICHAEL, WALL; MIKENZIE MIKKELSON, BELLE FOURCHE; KAMIRA MILLER, NEWELL; KECIA MILLER, NEWELL;

KAYCEE MONNENS, BELLE FOURCHE; WADE MONNENS, BELLE FOURCHE; BRANDON MOODY, WINNER; DAWSON MUNGER, PUKWANA; CHEYLEE NAGEL, SPRINGFIELD; WYLEE NELSON, FAITH; KARLY NIEMANN, BALTIC; HERBIE O’DANIEL, KADOKA; KARISSA ODENBACH, HAMILL; LAURA O’LEARY, TIMBER LAKE; BAILEY OLIVER, LEMMON; BROOKE OLLERICH, HARTFORD; TREVOR OLSON, MUD BUTTE; TRIG OLSON, PRAIRIE CITY; BRINLEY OLSON, WHITEWOOD; TYUS OLSON, MUD BUTTE; TYLER OPSTEDAHL, PIEDMONT; COLLIN PALMER, BISON; TYEN PALMER, DUPREE; CARTER PARKER, CLEAR LAKE; ETHAN PARR, MITCHELL; MATTEE PAULEY, WALL; EMILEE PAULEY, WALL; GRAYLIN "GP" PEDERSON, GLAD VALLEY; RAINA PERLI, RAPID CITY; COURTNEY PETERS, HOT SPRINGS;

JETT PETERSON, PARADE; KARLEE PETERSON, STURGIS; TREVOR PETERSON, SISSETON; JESSICA PETERSON, RAPID CITY; JON PETERSON, BELLE FOURCHE; ASHLEY PETERSON, RAPID CITY; TATE PETRAK, MARTIN; TAGG PETRAK, MARTIN; JD PHELPS, THUNDER VALLEY; JUSTIN "BUZZ" PHELPS, PORUPINE; BRIANNA PHILIPSEN, NEW UNDERWOOD; SAMUEL PODZIMEK, LUDLOW; CHANCE POPHAM, HAYTI; BRENDON PORCH, KADOKA; TYRONE POURIER, KYLE; SIERRA PRICE, MUD BUTTE; COLE PUCKETT, KYLE; MADISON RAU, MOBRIDGE; KARISSA RAYHILL, MARTIN; DAWSON REEDY, PHILIP; TRISTA REINERT, WALL; DYLAN RICE, FLANDREAU; NOLAN RICHIE, BRISTOL; CAMERON RICHTER, QUINN; DYLAN RIGGINS, KADOKA; MARY RISSE, MARTIN; CHARLES RISSE, INTERIOR; MADISON RITTBERGER, NEWELL; CORD ROBERTS, NEW UNDERWOOD; KARLIE ROBERTSON, CAPUTA; RILEY RULAND, WALL; REID RUTTEN, COLOME; JESSICA RYAN, BELLE FOURCHE; KOLTON SALONEN, GREGORY; CAMDEN SAWVELL, QUINN; MADDIE SCHAACK, CLARK; JACOB SCHALESKY, FAITH; KIMBERLEE SCHERER, MARTIN; TJ SCHMIDT, BELLE FOURCHE; OLATHE SCHMIDT, WHITE RIVER; MYKELSI SCHNOSE, OELRICHS; DYLAN SCHOFIELD, PHILIP; MORGAN SCHRANK, CANTON; WYATT SCHUELKE, OPAL; MICHAEL SCOTT, FORT PIERRE; RAECHAEL SEIDEL, SHADEHILL; OLIVIA SELLECK, WHITE; PADEN SEXTON, BISON; SHALI SHERIDAN, FAITH; DALTON SHERIDAN, FAITH; SETH SHORB, HERMOSA; LANDON SIVERTSEN, REE HEIGHTS; RANCE SIVERTSEN, SPEARFISH;

JULIANA SMITH, HURON; RILEY ANN SMITH, RAPID CITY; ALAINA STANGLE, PHILIP; LATHEN STEVENS, EDGEMONT; AUBREE STEVENS, DUPREE; CIARA STODDARD, NORRIS; SAWYER STRAND, HARRISBURG; CASSIDY STRATMAN, BOX ELDER; JIMI DAWN SWALLOW, BUFFALO GAP; MADELINE TEIGEN, CAMP CROOK; ASHLEY THEOBALD, FORT PIERRE; ALIX THORSTENSON, BELLE FOURCHE; COLE TRAINOR, FAITH; TAYLOR TUPPER, ST. ONGE; SHELBY VINSON, WORTHING; SIERRA WARD, FRUITDALE; KEANNA WARD, FRUITDALE; MYKALA R. WELLS, BURKE; JOSIE WHITE, TIMBER LAKE; JESSI WHITE, TIMBER LAKE; RACQUEL WIENTJES, ONIDA; BRIANNA WILLIAMS, BUFFALO; TERA WILLIAMSON, NEWELL; KATLYNN WOLF, PIEDMONT; BRANDI WOLLES, DELL RAPIDS; KAYLA WOLLES, DELL RAPIDS; DEVIN WOODS, STURGIS; BRENT WOODWARD, DUPREE; JADYN WOODWARD, DUPREE; TREY WRIGHT, HOUGHTON; SIERRA YOUNG, ONIDA; TANEGAI ZILVERBERG, HOLABIRD; and ZANE ZILVERBERG, HOLABIRD

Following are the queen contestants:

Madeline Teigen

Harding County

High Shool

Cassidy Goetz

New Underwood

High School

Kelsey Lensegrav

Kadoka High School

Ashley Theobald

TF Riggs High School

Riley Ann Smith

St. Thomas Moore

High School

Martina Loobey

Sturgis Brown

High School

Aliesha Rae McCarthy

Miller High School

Queen Contestants placing first, second or third at the Regional Rodeos will qualify for the State Finals. Contestants can only win one Queen Contest at Regionals prior to State Finals. Queen placing first at the State

Finals is the only qualifier for the National Finals Team.

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