"Mini" is his nickname on the football field and the wrestling mat, so Dustin Sanchez is hoping for as maximum a result as possible when he makes his return this month to the National High School Finals Rodeo.
"I just want to make top-ten, you know, and see what that's like," said the Ignacio High School senior, who will head up to Rock Springs, Wyoming, for the grand gathering July 15-21. "Because I finished middle-of-the-pack last year, and just want to break.into that section."
"You know, last year when I went for shooting, I was really shaky," he added, recalling his 2017 experience in Gillette, Wyo. "I really didn't know, like, if I was good enough and I didn't do too good. So this year I'm going up and hoping to shoot pretty well."
Part of the Colorado Line Riders Club, Sanchez finished third in the Colorado State High School Rodeo Association's year-end rifle points, trailing only State Finals-winning Cauy Pennington of Kiowa and Dalley Gibson of La Junta. At State, held May 24-28 at the Moffat County Fairgrounds in Craig, the right-handed Sanchez fired a three-round 558 (242-149-167) and placed fifth overall.
Fourth with a 583, Mesa's Jordan Miner also finished fourth in points, clinching the final NHSFR berth from Colorado.
"All the kids you shoot with are pretty good, so it's nice I get to go up there, shoot, and hang out in Wyoming for a couple days," said Sanchez, who also ended the 2017-18 CSHSRA season tied for eighth in bull riding. He's standing first in the money for the 2018 True West Rodeo summer series in Durango, despite a buck-off Wednesday on Jne 27. "It's pretty cool."
"I'm working to make myself better," he continued, alluding to his rough-stock passion, "because I have eight rodeos in the next seven days over the Fourth of July, a.k.a. 'Cowboy Christmas.'"
The unofficial NHSFR draw sheet, detailing all qualifiers and their expected competition time slots, will be posted by Saturday, July 7. After arriving at the Sweetwater Events Complex and officially checking in, all entrants will then sit through a mandatory information meeting Sunday morning, July 15, in the SEC grandstands.
The .22-caliber light rifle action will then begin at 10 a.m. on the July 17 at the Green River Shooting Range.
"It's just something that not everybody gets to do," he says of his shooting and bullriding. "Like, all the people at school say they'd never ride a bull, 'it's too scary,' but in hindsight...it's fun, you know? And you get to travel a lot; I've been all over the Four Corners these past couple years."
ONE OF THREE: Sanchez will represent La Plata County at the NHSFR along with Bayfield resident Madison Story and Durango High School grad Lexie Crawford of Hesperus.
"We're all pretty good friends," said Sanchez. "Lexie's one of my closer friends, and she's going up there for cutting. Maddie made it in poles, and she's pretty good."
Crawford not only placed first at the State Finals, scoring a three-phase 210 at the fairgrounds, but also finished atop the year-end standings en route to securing her own return to nationals. In 2017, she tied for 51st.
Story tied for fourth in pole-bending points following three successful rides at State, landing her third in the average. A member of the Basin High School Rodeo team, she will make her first appearance at the NHSFR, dubbed "World's Largest Rodeo," which regularly attracts over 1,500 contestants.