Whether it was sixth sense or something else, Madison Story knew she had to hit the road.
With a younger brother set to ride in the short, or championship, go-round at the 2019 National Junior High Finals Rodeo in saddle-bronc steer, it didn’t matter she’d have to cannonball from Colorado to Huron, South Dakota.
“When he made short go, my daughter was here and she goes, ‘Mom, I’ve got to drive up there!’” mother Shannon Story recalled Monday afternoon, after a 3:30 a.m. return. “She’d stayed here to work, and she said, ‘I cannot miss him ride! Even if he bucks off.’ And she drove 15 hours, one-way, to watch her brother.”
“We kept talking about her coming, but I’d never think she really would,” laughed Mitchell Story, the objective of his sibling’s short-notice long haul. “It was just super cool; I never thought she would. It was a surprise for me.”
But essentially, also a blessing.
Able to fine-tune elements such as his position in the seat, the Bayfield High freshman-to-be capped his third consecutive NJHFR appearance June 29 with a third-place score of 56. Combined with earlier marks of 46 and 51 – which held up for 22nd overall in the first go and ninth in the second.
Story totaled 153 points and left the South Dakota State Fairgrounds fourth place in the average.
“When you’re at the Finals, it’s always going to be a rush. But it was kind of surreal,” he said. “I got back to the chutes and one of my buddies from Australia told me that I was leading for a little bit. At first I thought he was lying to me, but then I looked at the leaderboard and there was my name.”
“My other rides before that I was really nervous, I didn’t really want to communicate with anybody,” he recalled, also tipping his hat to the fact he drew more active mounts as the Finals progressed. “But I knew that all I had to do was just keep my head in it and I’d do alright. So I was real calm, wasn’t really worried, and it turned out good.”
Canadian, Texas’ Benny Proffitt won the short go with a 66 while Alto, Texas’ Landon Cook registered a runner-up 59, but having covered three head successfully, Proffitt, en route to earning All-Around Cowboy honors, amassed 189 (63-60-66) points to ultimately prevail over Keller, Texas’ Cooper Lane (62-58-51–171).
Carlisle, South Carolina’s Ross Price (61-57-49–167) then bridged the gap to Story, who helped Colorado place 13th in the final boys team standings with 1,995 points. Texas piled up 9,520 points to defeat runners-up Utah by a whopping 4,215, while Finals-hosting South Dakota amassed 4,018.33 points and came in third.
“He won one $200 scholarship and a $100 scholarship which was really cool,” noted Shannon Story, who also mentioned Mitchell earned prize buckles for both his short-go ride and final average standing. “And I don’t think it’s really set in for him. I think we’re all so tired that it hasn’t quite set in. But we are so proud of that kid; he worked so hard.”
And with a transition to the high school ranks staring him in the face, Mitchell Story knows the work will only continue if he wishes to improve his skills.
“I’m looking forward to it, but then again I’m not,” he joked. “It’s going to be rough; I finally peaked in the event I wanted to do and now I have to step up to horses, so it’s going to be like I never even got on anything. It’s a huge step.”
A NEAR MISSHad a little more luck been on her side, Madison Story would have qualified for her second National High School Finals Rodeo. At the end of the 2018-19 Colorado State High School Rodeo Association season, she stood sixth in pole bending with just the top four placers securing a spot in Rock Springs, Wyoming. After the State Finals at Moffat County Fairgrounds in Craig, she also ranked 14th in barrel racing.