Although the Gracie Lee Haught Foundation has canceled its Father’s Day roping due to the EHV-1 virus, the Arizona High School Rodeo Association state finals went on as scheduled.
Held June 8 to June 11 at the Payson Event Center, local officials took precautions to prevent a virus outbreak by canceling the barrel series on May 25 and June 1 and closing the center to horses until June 6. During the closure, Dr. Drew Justice directed a sanitization of the grounds and arena.
Although there are horse owners concerned about the spread of the virus and cases have been reported in Arizona, National High School Rodeo Association CEO Michael Dixon says there are no plans to cancel the upcoming national finals.
The virus did, however, adversely affect the turnout for the state finals.
“I heard that some families had dropped out because of (the virus),” said PEC coordinator Kaprice Bachtell. “There are those who are hesitant and we had a small turnout.”
Official participation numbers are not immediately available due to a computer glitch at state rodeo headquarters, but some at PEC said participation was down 50 percent over past years.
The state rodeo tipped off June 8 with a queen contest, which drew four contestants.
The horsemanship phase was held in PEC and speeches, modeling and question-and-answer sessions were held in the Payson High School auditorium.
Nicole Speeding was eventually elected queen and will serve throughout the next school year. Karissa Garcia, Chantel Jensen and Racquel Jundt were the other contestants.
The following day, the grand entry kicked off at noon and was followed by bareback, steer wrestling, breakaway, saddle bronc, calf roping, pole bending and more.
On Friday evening, the cowboy prom, which had a theme of “Old Wild West,” drew contestants to the historic Oxbow Inn.
“We had 115 attend and it went very well,” said Bachtell. “The kids were well behaved and had a great time.”
Finals in all events were held Saturday and Sunday. A dinner banquet and awards presentation capped the rodeo festivities inside PEC.
The barbecue dinner was cooked and served by Bob and Ruth Klaver who, Bachtell says, deserve a big pat on the back and a thank you for a job well done.
Bachtell is also calling the rodeo, despite the virus threat, a huge success, “It was absolutely fantastic.”
The state finals were the second high school rodeo held in Payson this school year. The other was contested Sept. 18 and 19 at PEC.
Although finals results were not available at press time, the Rim Country was well represented in the championships, and throughout the season, by Jessi James and Chelsie Stodghill.
Stodghill is a state leader in barrel racing, goat tying and pole bending. James shines in breakaway, goat tying and team roping.
In the chase for all-around state honors, James was ranked 22nd at the start of the finals and Stodghill was sitting 38th among 75 contestants.