The Payson High School Rodeo Team will play host to more than 250 aspiring cowboys and cowgirls from around the state this weekend.
The teenagers will be competing in the annual Arizona High School Rodeo Association-Payson Rodeo Saturday and Sunday at the Payson Event Center. Besides all the events that normal rodeos have including bull riding, calf roping, team roping, steer wrestling, bareback riding and saddle bronc riding events for females include barrel racing, pole bending and goat tying.
Among the top performers is bronc rider Jason Amon who has competed in 11 high school rodeos so far this year. Amon, who only began saddle bronc riding a year ago, placed second or third in most of those rodeos and took third in the state high school rodeo.
He also competed in the International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Okla., and the 2002 National High School Finals Rodeo. At the latter, he placed 43rd out of 131 contestants in the saddle bronc competition.
Amon also started competing in junior rodeos this year, and has won four of the six he has entered. At the junior rodeo state finals rodeo in Globe he took first place, and he won a saddle for being the junior rodeo overall saddle bronc champion for 2002.
Others on the PHS team include John and Jamie Ewing, Seth Barkley, Klayton Haught, Garrett and Laci Riggins, Lindy Parker, Ramsey Milam, Jessie Brown, Laura Baker and Lanny Murdock. While PHS doesn't support the team, all members have to maintain their eligibility by keeping their grades up.
"They actually have to have better grades than the football players," Mike Amon, Jason's father, said.
Wells Fargo Bank is the event sponsor and the Optimists will man the food both, with half of the profits going to the team for travel.
"It's a great event," Amon said. "It brings a lot of money to town. We're planning to have another one in March."
The slack begins Saturday and Sunday at 8 a.m. with the performance each day at 1 p.m. Plus a special 4D barrel racing competition is scheduled for Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free to all events.
Slack events include pole bending, breakaway team roping and barrel racing. Performance events include bareback riding, calf roping, saddle bronc riding, goat tying, steer wrestling and bull riding.
The National High School Rodeo Association, which sanctions the event, has been in existence for 55 years. It has members in 38 states, five provinces and Australia.