ST. GEORGE — Several Southern Utah athletes were among the top finishers at the Utah High School Rodeo Association’s state finals rodeo held last week at Washington County Legacy Park.
The multi-day event attracted dozens of contestants from around the state, with several events having more than 50 finishers.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better state finals,” UHSRA spokeswoman Lisa Barnhurst Woodland told St. George News. “We are very grateful to Washington County for allowing us to come and give our kids the opportunity to compete for the state title and send our top four in each event to nationals.”
“It was so good to be back with our family and friends,” she added. “Rodeo is a unique sport. We become family.”
Woodland said there had not been any competition rodeos held in Utah since last November, with coronavirus restrictions shutting down the spring season. But despite the long hiatus, she said the young athletes continued to practice on their own.
“These kids have not quit practicing,” Woodland said. “In fact, I’m sure with their extra time, they practiced harder. They never gave up.”
“They are fierce competitors in the arena, but outside the arena, they are best friends,” she added. “As I stood down with them yesterday morning, I was in awe of their stamina, courage and determination.”
Among the top performances of the week, Macee McAllister of Dixie Rodeo Club successfully defended her state title in barrel racing, with all three of her runs clocking in at under 16.2 seconds. McAllister, who went on to win nationals in barrels last year, will be heading to Oklahoma next month for this year’s national championship. McAllister, a 2020 graduate of Dixie High School, plans to attend Dixie State University starting this fall.
Brek Sanderson of Cedar City’s team placed first in bull riding and second in steer wrestling. He was also the reserve champion all-around. Sanderson, a 2020 graduate of Canyon View High School, will attend College of Southern Idaho this fall on a full-ride rodeo scholarship. He plans to become a professional rodeo competitor, his mother Nikki Sanderson told St. George News.
Dalli Holyoak of Dixie won the rodeo queen competition and will represent the Utah High School Rodeo Association at nationals in Oklahoma next month. She recently completed her sophomore year at Dixie High School.
“She’s very excited,” her mother Lori Holyoak said. “She set this as a goal last year and she has spent hours and hours studying and working so hard.”
Dalli Holyoak earned top awards in multiple categories at the queen competition, including personal interview, horsemanship, speech and impromptu, while tying for first on the written test.
Another top winner from Southern Utah was rifle shooting champion Beau Emett of Enterprise, who just finished his freshman year at Enterprise High. He is a returning champion, having won both state and nationals at the junior high-level last year. This year, Emett posted scores of 339 and 333 (out of a possible 360) to win the competition, which involves firing at targets while standing, kneeling and prone. In addition, two sharpshooters from Dixie placed among the top four at state and qualified for nationals: Curry Wilkins finished second overall with scores of 335 and 327, and Melroy Vigoren placed fourth with scores of 323 and 328.
Another competitor from Enterprise, Amy Mason, placed first in the goat-tying competition, while Cedar’s Staheli Adams placed second in that event.
Another state winner was pole bending champion MaRynn Moody of the tiny town of Deseret, near Delta, competing for the West Millard team.
Following are some of the other top performances by Southern Utah rodeo athletes at state. All top-four finishers qualify for the national finals to be held in Guthrie, Oklahoma in mid-July.
Riley Howell of Panguitch placed third in the bareback riding event. His teammates Ian and McCrae Fillmore placed seventh in the team roping event.
Also in team roping, TJ and Blake Bowler of Enterprise finished second, while Cameron and Caden Drake of Dixie placed fourth. TJ Bowler also took sixth in tie-down roping, while Blake Bowler placed seventh.
Kamryn Carlsen of Dixie placed fourth in barrel racing. Her teammate Jacee Graff placed fifth in goat tying. Jocelynn Cornwall of Enterprise placed fifth in pole bending.
The UHSRA is staging its junior high competition at Washington County Legacy Park in Hurricane this week, with initial rounds on Monday and Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m., followed by Wednesday’s “short go” finals starting at 10 a.m.
Woodland expressed her appreciation for all those who helped stage the rodeo events and complimented all of the contestants on their dedication and resilience.
“In the fall of 2019, the student officers chose the theme ‘Together We Conquer!’” she noted. “This week has been just that. With the support of our members and our amazing board which includes our youth presidency from both junior high and high school, as well as our state rodeo queen, we conquered. Now, we send our top kids to conquer nationals!”
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