In Western South Dakota, it’s not surprising that with the State Track Meet checked off the calendar last week, thoughts of many of the area’s top high school athletes turn to rodeo and track shoes are set aside for cowboy boots.
On Wednesday night, many of those athletes had a chance to display their considerable rodeo talents at the James Kjerstad Event Center on the Central State Fairgrounds, competing in the Rumble in Rapid City, a Cinch Team Rodeo Varsity Cup Series event.
The Rumble in Rapid City featured 10 area high school rodeo teams and four regional All-Star teams — including a North Dakota contingent — vying for individual and team prize money and bragging rights in a 10-event, one team member per event format.
With high school sports in the rear-view mirror for most — State girls' golf takes place next week — many of Wednesday night’s competitors made no secret that in Western South Dakota rodeo remains king.
“It’s a little different atmosphere than the state track meet for sure,” said Wall’s Cash Wilson, the reigning High School National Champion saddle bronc rider who finished second in the Class B 400 meters in Sioux Falls on Saturday. “Rodeo is my favorite sport by far, and with track it’s been kind of hard to work in bronc riding, though there are some days off that I can get on some bucking horses. During track season, you are definitely pretty sore, so it will be nice to not have to deal with that. I am in good shape from track though, so I should be good to go this summer.”
Wilson didn’t disappoint as the world champion, the last man out in saddle bronc, the last event of the night, despite drawing a runner out of the chute turned in a 68-point ride to share second-place behind event winner, Clint Donaldson of Sturgis.
Wilson’s second-place effort clinched the team title for the South Dakota All-Stars.
Sawyer Gilbert, a national champion roper who placed second in the Junior American rodeo in breakaway roping and earning a qualification in the million-dollar American Rodeo in Dallas, was in town as well prepping her stable of horses for the upcoming slate of South Dakota high school rodeos.
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“It’s nice to come here and compete and get all of your horses working with regionals and state coming up this month, and I figure the more you rodeo, the better you are,” said Gilbert, who turned in a quick 2.96 second run to win the breakaway roping event.
For Gilbert, who is home-schooled, rodeo and competing at every venue possible, is a year-around affair.
“I have two great breakaway horses that I’m really proud of," he said. "When you rodeo as much as I do, you have to have a number of quality horses, and so I have back-ups in everything and am looking forward to the regional rodeos and state.”
Another high school rodeo standout, McKinzey Miller of Faith, claimed the goat tying prize money with an 7.71 second nipping Gilbert (8.09) for the win.
“With all the rain it’s been hard to practice, so to come here and rodeo before an energetic crowd is a lot of fun,” said Miller, who will be taking her rodeo talents to the University of Wyoming in the fall. “And with the regional rodeos coming up, this is a good start for me, and I’m excited to see where it goes this year”
A Harding County rising sophomore, 15-year-old Caden Floyd, was the youngest event winner hanging on for dear life aboard a bucking bull to tally a 72-point winning ride.
“My dad told me to just keep with him from jump-to-jump, and that’s what I tried to do,” Floyd said while explaining a recent winning formula. “That’s been working since I recently won the bull riding at the Timber Lake High School rodeo. And it’s fun to come here and show what you can do.”
Other Rumble winners included: bareback — Tiegen Robertson (New Underwood, 68 points), pole bending — Bridgett Romey (21.17), tie-down roping — Thane Lockhart (Oelrichs, 9.71), team roping — Trevor Hartshorn/Teigun Fite (Custer).