Knowing he needed something special to remain in contention at the 69th Aannual National High School Finals Rodeo, 2017 Ignacio High School graduate and saddle bronc rider Mark Kempinski was determined not to let the second go-round pressure break him.
"It's a make-or-break for me!" he'd said from Gillette, Wyoming, via Facebook Messenger. "I've been working hard to make it here. With the competition, I'm holding up. I didn't come this far to give up."
But in the end, the broncs - beneath him and other entrants - determined the beastly spectacle's true nature.
Unsuccessful in his second-go attempt on July 20 in Gillette, Kempinski ranked 40th in the average when the decisive third, or short go was completed two nights later.
"All the glory to God," said Kempinski. "He's the reason I've gotten to where I am today, and I'm gonna give it my best from the ol' Colorado side!"
Part of a well-known rodeo family, Milford, Utah's Stetson Wright won the short go with an 80-point ride, bettering 79s by Will Pollock of Utopia, Texas and Houston Brown of Miles City, Mont. Yet after all the dust had settled, Brown was tops in the average, covering three head for a total of 234 (82-73-79) points.
Via his short-go 77, Coffman rode into second place with a 216 (70-69-77) and Leon, Iowa's Chance Masters took third with a steady 215 (68-79-68).