The National Junior High Finals Rodeo draw sheet checks in at an intimidating 46 pages long.
It's the list which any young rodeo competitor wants to make, Bayfield's Mitchell Story among them.
Having his first taste of what's been dubbed the world's second-largest rodeo, last summer in Lebanon, Tenn., Story couldn't wait to put in work during the 2017-18 season to earn a return. Even if that means a different discipline: saddle-bronc steer riding, rather than rifle shooting (in which he earned a '17-18 Colorado Jr. High Cinch Team salute).
"Last year I was kind of disappointed I didn't make it," said Story, alluding to the rough-stock specialty. "It's definitely an accomplishment to make it in that, because I've been struggling so much."
To be held this year and next at the South Dakota State Fairgrounds in Huron, S.D., the 2018 NJHFR will begin Monday, June 25, with Story's first ride slated for that evening.
The draw lists his second try for Friday morning, June 29. With a little success, a spot in the June 30 short - or championship - go-round will be his, but Story is expecting no less difficulty than what he encountered at the Colorado State Finals, held May 24-28 at the Moffat County Fairgrounds in Craig.
"I only had one qualified ride," he said. "There was one performance Friday morning, then Sunday, and Monday was the short go. So the steers were definitely tough, for sure. But I had a lot of help and a lot of encouragement."
"And I've been studying the cattle a little bit, so that might help me out a little bit too," he continued. "In the junior-high division they put a saddle-bronc saddle on a steer. And at nationals they bring, like, milk cows, and put bronc saddles on those! They're bigger and have a lot more strength, so I've been working on, like, being more aggressive. Throwing my feet forward, and just trying to squeeze my legs."
Story, 14 and going into eighth grade, placed third in the CJHRA year-end standings and took sixth in the rifle competition, but said he still won the event average at State via his sole qualified ride.
But that was then; the now is what's preoccupying his mind.
"Been a lot of practicing, that's for danged sure! We have been going around and around just trying to get to every rodeo, trying to practice," he said.
From Marshville, North Carolina, but representing the South Carolina Junior High Rodeo Association, Ethan Lombardo won the NJHFR saddle-bronc steer average last summer with 202 points on three head, and also earned Reserve All-Around Cowboy. As a SCHSRA rookie this year he earned All-Around Cowboy status as well as the conventional saddle bronc points title.
Triple threatEntered in neither one nor two, but three roping events, it's safe to say that Ignacio's Bodie Hine didn't let a 2018 NJHFR berth get away from him.
Representing the New Mexico Junior High Rodeo Association, Hine qualified for Tennessee last year in team roping and placed 23rd in the average. In Huron, he will compete in breakaway (his first efforts are presently listed for Monday morning and Friday evening), team (Tuesday morning, Thursday evening) and ribbon (Tuesday evening, Thursday morning).
He will again pair with New Mexico's Quincy Sullivan in team, and with New Mexico's Jenesis Trujeque in ribbon-her only event. Sullivan, however, also qualified in pole bending, girls' breakaway and ribbon roping.
A 2017-18 N.M. Jr. High Cinch Teamer in team roping, Hine finished with Trujeque atop the NMJHRA year-end points table this season in ribbon.
Following the May 24-28 State Finals in Gallup, he also finished third in breakaway, and paired with Sullivan to tie for fourth in team-leaving him sixth in the final A-A Cowboy standings.
At State, Hine clocked a fifth-place 28.71 with Sullivan in the team roping short go, and recorded a 21.87 with Trujeque to ultimately place sixth (they'd won the first go in 9.12 seconds) in ribbon. In breakaway, he stopped the clock in just 3.32 ticks for another first-go win, but the short go went to 2017 NJHFR qualifier Faron Candelaria (in 1.97) of Isleta Pueblo.
More than 1,000 entrants from the U.S., Canada and Australia will compete during the seven days in S.D.
ALSO IN THE MIX: Though not able to qualify for nationals, Bayfielder Teagan Roukema Taylor still managed to end his season with CJHRA top-ten status in tie-down roping (tenth, after a tenth-place finish in Craig). He also ended up 11th in chute dogging, 15th in goat tying In ribbon roping, which is a co-ed event, he was top-20.
Ninth in the chute dogging average at State, he logged another top-ten result by joining Delta's Conner Cannon to take tenth in team roping.
Ignacio rookie Kourtney Schurman finished 25th in the year-end barrel racing standings, but 16th in poles and tied for 14th in girls' goat tying.