Fun in Farmington

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Thirteen performances and 1,375 students later, the 61st Annual National High School Finals Rodeo-held in Farmington, N.M., July 19-25-wrapped up with 17 newly crowned champions. The biggest rodeo in the world is literally a three-ring circus, with the roughstock events, pole bending and goat tying happening in one arena while next to it the team roping, tie-down roping, steer wrestling and barrels is going on. Across the grounds, the boys and girls cutting is being held.

The event is a spectacle, and can rattle the most talented competitors. What's best, though, is that the event showcases the future of the sport of rodeo.

The 2009 edition also showcased a little of the past when Riley Duvall of Checotah, Okla.,-son of Sam Duvall-repeated as the national champion in the steer wrestling. After leading the average race on two, a 3.815-second run in the finals brought his average time on three to 11.374, easily outdistancing his nearest competitor.

In the team roping, the sport's growth and popularity was truly showcased when, out of the 20 teams represented in the short round, Oregon, New Mexico, Oklahoma, New York, Hawaii, Arizona, Nebraska, Colorado, Minnesota, Illinois, Idaho, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Georgia and Arkansas were all represented. Only New Mexico, Oregon and Hawaii had two teams in the top 20.

Whether it was the pressure of the situation or the aggressive style of the younger generation, there were very few clean runs in the short round. The third high call team did connect with a 7.603 to boost them to the lead in the average and put the pressure on the remaining two teams.

New Mexicans Ryan Cook (Belen) and Cody Jo Mirabal (Grants) came into the short round as the second high team back with a 15.191-second time on two head. They responded to the team from Oklahoma's fast run by coming in just a tick off their time with a 7.769-enough to boost them to first in the average with a 22.96 on three. It held when the high call team back wound up with a 41-second time.

Breakaway roper Kirsten Stubbs from Clint, Texas, had finished third and second at the NHSFR the previous two years, but never in the top spot. As a senior, she finally realized her dream when she dominated the long go by roping two calves in 5.511 seconds and-only needing a solid run-turned in a 3.005 in the short round to win the title with a 8.556 on three.

Chase Outlaw from Tilly, Ark., experienced the same excitement in the bull riding. After finishing second at last year's NHSFR by turning in an 87-point short-round ride, he came back to Farmington on a mission. Although he trailed Chon Miranda in the average, Outlaw again rode his final round bull for 87 points, bringing his total to 228 on three. Miranda bucked off for the title to go to Outlaw.

Jerrell Hewitt of St. Louis, Mo., roped in Riley Pruitt's-son of 1990 World Champion Tie-Down Roper Troy-shadow for most of the week. In the short round, however, the contest became dramatic. Hewitt trailed Pruitt by 0.641 coming into the round and put the heat on by roping his final-round calf in 8.487 seconds and brining his total time to 26.934 on three. Pruitt rose to the challenge, but fell short when his curl caught the calf's back leg.

Brody Beaver, son of Eight-Time World Champion Joe, won the boys cutting at the NHSFR with a 646.5 on three.

The rest of the winners are as follows:

All-Around Cowboy: A.J. Fuchs, Teton Village, Wyo., 870 points

All-Around Cowgirl: Jessie Kirkes, Carlsbad, N.M., 925 points

Bareback Riding: J.R. Vezain, Cowley, Wyo., 223 points on three

Barrel Racing: Baily Jobe, Wellborn, Fla., 51.941 seconds on three

Goat Tying: Tyesha Oppenheimer, Redmond, Utah, 23.814 on three

Pole Bending: Angela Bartley, Emporia, Kan., 61.033 on three

Saddle Bronc Riding: Dawson Jandreau, Kennebec, S.D., 205 on three

Girls Cutting: (three-way tie) Kyle Lancaster, Plano, Texas, Marisa Julian, Fallon, Nevada and Jamie Lancaster, Jerome, Idaho, 643 points on three

Top Team: Texas, 8,315 points