For just about any young cowboy or cowgirl, winning a saddle for the first time is a thrill that lasts a lifetime.
That ecstasy turned into a reality for two Payson girls. Brylee Hall, 11, and Jessi James, 19, on June 19-20 at
the Apache Gold arena in San Carlos. There, the two claimed their first-ever saddles by winning Arizona Junior Rodeo Association championships.
“The two were absolutely as excited as they could be,” said local 4H coordinator Lani Hall.
James, a Payson High graduate with the class of 2009, won her saddle in the breakaway roping. She was also second in the team roping.
Brylee Hall, who will be a sixth-grader at Rim Country Middle School next year, won the ribbon roping championship while teaming up with her cousin Brit Parker.
Also representing Payson in the AJRA state championships were Bryndee Hall and Monty James, Jessi’s younger brother.
Bryndee, 9, finished in the top 10 in barrel racing and pole bending.
Monty James, 11, was in the top 10 in the ribbon roping and the calf roping.
The championships marked the culmination of the AJRA season. Lani Hall estimates that during the course of the season, the Payson youths competed in about 10 junior rodeos.
The 2009-2010 rodeo season kicks off in August.
In addition to the trio of Payson cowgirls competing on the AJRA circuit, they frequent the Turn and Burn Series and many 4H events.