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SHERIDAN — Two Sheridan students will have the opportunity to compete in the National Junior High Finals Rodeo starting this weekend in Des Moines, Iowa.
Kade Koltiska, a seventh-grader at Big Horn, qualified for the NJHFR to compete in barrel racing, pole bending and ribbon roping.
Anna Zowada, a Sheridan eighth-grader, will compete in barrel racing and pole bending.
The National High School Rodeo association started the Junior High Division in 2004, allowing sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to compete on a national level before heading into the high school division.
There are more than 2,500 members competing at the junior high ranks, representing all 47 states and provinces that belong to the NHSRA, including Wyoming.
Koltiska and Zowada will be joining the 25 other junior high students from Wyoming participating in the rodeo next week.
“We hold five qualifying rodeos throughout the state,” Wyoming Junior High Rodeo National Director Mack Bradley said. “After the five events, we look at the scores and the top four scorers from each event get selected to the national team.”
Last year, the Wyoming girls team finished 18th, scoring 1,950 points. Koltiska was part of last year’s team as well, finishing 35th in the average in barrel racing.
This year’s rodeo will be the first year that the event is not held in Gallup, New Mexico, which has been the location of the NJHFR since it first began in 2005.
“Well, it’s a new setting this year,” Bradley said. “We’re not sure what Des Moines is going to have in store for us. We know that there’s a morning and an evening session and some practices in between, but we will see what else they have once we get there.”
The NJHFR is a great way for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to transition into the next level and prepare them for high school and the National High School Finals Rodeo, where they all someday hope to compete.
“I think the Junior High Finals are big for these kids,” Bradley said. “It really prepares them, so that most of them, when they’re freshman, can step in right away and compete.”
Bradley and Team Wyoming hope to travel to Des Moines and improve on their performance from a year ago.
“Wyoming has a good team this year,” Bradley said. “We’re excited to have them represent the state and hopefully come back with a few top finishers.”
Koltiska, Zowada and the rest of the Wyoming team will begin competition tomorrow, as the National Junior High Finals Rodeo kicks off at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines and lasts through Saturday.