Ropes in hand and saddles polished, the Payson High School Rodeo team is gearing up to compete in a dozen rodeos around the state this school year.
"I joined because I like to rope and I want to start riding bucking horses," said sophomore Jeff Lister, who plans to compete as a saddle bronc rider and in team roping.
His brother, Jason, will be competing as a bareback rider.
Sophomore Ashley James will race her hose, Sprocket, around the barrels.
The team is excited that the first high school rodeo of the year will be held in Payson on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 16 and 17.
The state competition may also be held at the rodeo grounds in town.
The team has doubled in size from last year, growing from eight to 16 members, freshmen through seniors.
Boys "rough stock" events are: Bull riding, bareback broncs and saddle broncs. Boys and girls compete in team roping. Girls events are: Calf tying, break-away roping and barrel and pole racing.
Last year, the teens raised $3,500 themselves, nearly half of which went to pay for buckles given as prizes at the end of each day's events. This year they are more organized as a team.
"We're having a booth at the August Doin's," said barrel racer Amanda Haworth. "We will be raffling off Western type stuff to help us travel around Arizona representing Payson for rodeos."
The team will raffle off one ton of alfalfa hay, donated by Rim County Hay and Grain, 15 bags of Smart Choice, donated by Nutrena, two tooled breast collars, donated by Jim Weeks, one horse statue, donated by Corral West and two, three day/two night stays in Kohl's Ranch Lodge -- one night in the lodge and one in a cabin -- donated by Kohl's.
All these items will be drawn and announced on Sunday at the rodeo.
Raffle tickets may also be purchased for a .44 magnum RMEF 2004 Banquet rifle.
The winner will be drawn at the first high school rodeo on Sept. 16 and 17.
"We want to help the kids to pay for gas and lodging," said Trey Haworth, a parent who helped organize the rodeo booth. "If there is enough money, we can also help pay some entry fees."
High school competitors often compete in local events like the Payson Parks and Recreation's "Turn and Burn" series as well as both rodeos.
Individual team members are allowed to obtain their own sponsorship.
"Whether it's the buckles for the rodeo or the (Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce) donating our booth at the rodeo this weekend, or Homer Sanders making us a wonderful sign for our team, we want to thank everyone who is helping us this year," Amanda Haworth said.
-- To reach Carol La Valley call 474-5251 ext. 122 or e-mail