The Arizona State High School Championship rodeo will draw some of the finest prep cowboys and cowgirls from around the state and also from New Mexico and Colorado.
“It’s the best of the best,” said Charlene Hunt, town recreation specialist. “Although it’s the Arizona championships, some (qualifiers) from neighboring states will be here, too.”
The rodeo, which will be held mostly at the Payson Event Center, kicked off Wednesday, June 10, with queen horsemanship competition.
Ashley James represented Payson as the AHSRA queen’s first attendant.
Yesterday, June 11, the grand entry was held as was pole bending, goat tying, bareback riding, steer wrestling, bulls, tie-down roping and team roping.
More action tipped off in all rodeo events at 7:30 a.m. this morning and will continue until 5:30 p.m.
From 8 to 10 p.m. today, the cowboy prom will be held at the Mazatzal Hotel.
The Mogollon Sporting Association and the Gracie Lee Haught Children’s Memorial Fund sponsor the prom. The theme this year is “Under the Sea” and sponsors are providing both a DJ and snacks.
The rodeo resumes tomorrow at 9 a.m. before wrapping up at 6 p.m. with the traditional awards banquet and dinner.
For the queen contest and banquet a 3,500-square-foot tent-like structure was set up inside the PEC arena.
“It’s also a place where (contestants) can go in to cool off and relax,” Hunt said.
To compete in the state finals, cowboys and cowgirls had to qualify during a series of high school rodeos that began in September 2008.
Among those representing PHS in the state rodeo is Trevor Haught — a local fans’ favorite. Haught graduated from Payson High with the Class of 2009.
Last summer, Haught — then a two-time Arizona state champion — rode his way to a seventh-place finish in the national high school bareback riding championships. In three go-arounds, the PHS junior tallied a cumulative score of 160.
Ashley James, also a member of Payson High’s Class of 2009, is entered in the pole bending, barrel racing and breakaway roping.
Jessica Stone and Jessie James will also represent Payson in the state rodeo.
Arizona state champions earn berths to the National High School Rodeo Finals to be held next month in Farmington, N.M.
Spectators are welcome to attend the state rodeo, the first state high school championship held in Payson, free of charge.