Monty James rode and roped his way to All-Around Cowboy honors in the 9- to 12-year-old division at the Arizona Junior Rodeo State Championships.
The finals, which were contested June 18 and 19 at the Payson Event Center, drew contestants from around the state, and marked the conclusion of nine junior rodeos that began Aug. 15, 2009 in St. Johns.
James received the all-around laurel after finishing second in double mugging and team roping. He was also third in ribbon roping.
James, who lives with his family at Little Green Valley east of Payson, will be a seventh-grader next school year at Rim Country Middle School.
His older sister, Jessi, who competed in the 16- to 18-year-old division, was also a three-way award-winner, taking first in team roping, third in breakaway roping and fourth in barrel racing.
“It was a good day for Payson,” said Lani Hall, a longtime, local rodeo backer who also is the Gila County 4H extension leader.
Also representing the Rim Country were Chelsie Stodghill, Brylee Hall, Bryndee Hall, Bryce Stodghill and Arena Haught.
Chelsie Stodghill, competing in the 12- to 13-years age division was sixth in ribbon roping, 10th in breakaway roping, 12th in both pole bending and goat tying and 20th in team roping.
Brylee Hall competed in the 9- to 12-years age division and was fifth in goat tying, ninth in pole bending, 10th in barrel racing and 16th in ribbon roping.
Her sister, Bryndee, competed in the same age division and was third in pole bending, 10th in breakaway roping, 12th in team roping and 28th in ribbon roping.
The 10-year-old was fresh off winning the Queen Creek Junior Rodeo Association Junior Girls All-Around crown.
She won the crown during the past QCJRA season as one of the most accomplished cowgirls on the five-rodeo circuit.
For the win, she received a souvenir saddle, her second such award.
In the 9- to 12-years age group at last weekend’s state finals, Bryce Stodghill took 18th in team roping.
Among the 5- to 8-year-olds, Haught, of Tonto Basin, was eighth in calf roping.
The Junior Rodeo championships, which were traditionally held in Payson from 1969 to 1985, returned to the Rim Country to much fanfare from longtime event supporters including Hall. “It was great to have it back here,” she said.
The reasons for the 25-year hiatus are not completely clear, but some former members of the Mogollon Montoneras — a group that formerly sponsored the event — say that when the Montoneras turned the rodeo over to another sponsor, support eventually eroded and the finals were moved to other small towns around Arizona.
Hall says it is her hope that the finals remain in Payson for years to come.
Following the season-opening rodeo in St. Johns, events were held in Williams, Florence, Buckeye, Marana, Gilbert, Wilcox and Prescott.