Cash Wilson came into the saddle bronc championship short go at the 2018 National High School Finals Rodeo on a bronc riding high. The Wall junior has been feeling that way throughout the rodeo season, earning a spot at the top of the saddle bronc standings virtually every time out of the chute.
On Saturday night, Wilson added a national title to his list of honors. Standing second coming into the championship short go, Wilson spurred his way to an 81-point ride, the best of the round, and a total of 217 on three head to claim the title.
A solid 71-point ride Friday morning helped Wilson overcome a low power horse in the first round (65-point ride) and move into second place in the average behind Utah’s Clayson Hutchings (139-136).
“I’m right where I want to be. With a shot to win a national championship. I had a really good horse yesterday. I could have rode him better but it worked for me,” Wilson said prior to Saturday’s short go. “The horses should be good tonight and I should be able to draw a good one.”
Second to last out of the chute on Saturday night, Wilson quickly settled in, found a lift and charge rhythm, and was in charge throughout the eight second championship ride.
“I knew I had a good chance tonight if I drew a good horse, and I drew a really nice horse,” said a very happy Wilson after his championship saddle bronc ride, South Dakota’s first high school bronc riding title since Dawson Jandreau of Presho claimed the 2009 gold buckle. “I just took what he gave me and tried hard. It’s cool to have my name mentioned with all the great bronc riders from South Dakota.”
The gold was his second of the spring as Wilson ran the 800-meter anchor leg on the Wall High School state championship sprint medley relay team at the Class B State Meet in Rapid City.
Though not qualifying for the short go, bronc riders Trey Elshere (Wall) and Dylan Schofield (Philip) had high finishes as well, sharing the 24th spot in the world.
Highmore cowgirl Natalie Leisinger had kicked off the NHSFR on a high note for Team South Dakota. Competing in the reined cow horse short go, the first championship event of the weekend, Leisinger, a fifth-place finisher last year, capped off her senior season of high school rodeo as a reserve champion, finishing second to Texas cowboy Josh Briggs (877-874.5) in the event.
“I went into the short go quite a ways out of first, so I just needed to make the run that my horse and I are capable of making,” said Leisinger, who will continuing her rodeo career at Casper College in the fall. “When you go to the short go, you have to lay it all out there to have any chance to win, and that’s what we did I felt. We did our best and finished third in the short go, so I was super happy. Especially to end (high school rodeo) with one of my highest scores ever.”
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TJ Schmidt of Belle Fourche was one of only six bull riders to cover two bulls in the long gos and came into the short go sitting in third in the average. Unfortunately, Schmidt came up a few seconds short in the short go — not a rare occurrence on the night as only two of the 20 finalists covered their critters — thereby earning a better than respectable fourth in standings.
“It was a great bull of Jade Nixon’s, and I just got bucked off tonight,” said Schmidt, who who will be taking his rodeo career to the prestigious Panhandle State (Oklahoma) rodeo program in the fall. “I’d seen the bull out a couple times, but every trip out has been different so far, so I just tried to take what came.”
Shayla Howell, another Belle Fourche standout, earned a spot in the barrel racing championship short go. Fifteenth coming into the round, Howell’s 17.793 final run left the University of Wyoming commit back in the pack.
Boys' cutting specialists Cooper Crago (Belle Fourche) and Bodie Mattson (Sturgis) also qualified for the short go, finishing 16th and 20th respectively in the event.
Alex Bergeson also earned a trip on the steer wrestling short go. The Mitchell high school grad eked into the finals with a 13.46 time on two head earning the 20th and last spot in the short go. Bergeson, the first man out in the short go, turned in a good run enroute to a 13th place finish in the event.
Bulldoggers Seth Shorb (Rapid City) and Wynn Shaack (Wall) finished 38th and 41st respectively in the event.
Riley Donnelly (Elk Point) came into Saturday in good position to earn a top spot in pole bending heading into the short go round. Unfortunately, a tipped pole in her Saturday morning second trip of the week short-circuited her title hopes.
Other South Dakota notable placements include Kailyn Groves (Faith, 22nd), and Emilee Pauley (Wall, 25th) in girls cutting; Dillon Sackett (Alcester) 34th in tie-down roping; Sawyer Gilbert (Buffalo) 31st in breakaway roping and 60th in goat tying, Marty McPherson (Piedmont) and Blair Lammers (Hartford) 34th in team roping.
And in the shooting events, Sam Gropper (Faith) garnered a third-place buckle in trap shooting.
Other national champions included: Bareback — Daylen Swearingen, Piffard, N.Y., (229 on three head); breakaway roping — Cassie Miller, Florence Ariz.; tie-down roping — Trae Smith, Georgetown, Idaho (28.78 on three head); goat tying — Erryn Hodson, Hooper, Utah (22.39 on three); steer wrestling — Jesse Keysaer, Culleoka, Tenn. (14.17 on three); pole bending — Brooklyn Gunter, Sulpur, La., (60.102 on three); barrel racing — Amanda Butler, Payson, Utah and bull riding — Cole Skender, Crossett, Ark.