Seventeen high school-aged cowboys and cowgirls are off to compete in the world’s largest junior rodeo event in Lebanon, Tennessee next month.
The group, which will represent B.C. at the National Junior High School Rodeo, had their final stop before the big event in Dawson Creek over the May long weekend.
Fort St. John’s Kali Atkings, a Grade 6 student from Alwin Holland Elementary, says she is beyond excited to represent her province in her rookie year on the high school rodeo circuit.
Atkings will compete in poles, breakaway and ribbon roping.
“I am really proud of my horse and my team,” she said. “Both Team B.C. and my other team: my Mom, Dad, sisters and my Nana and Poppa that helped me travel all the way to Williams Lake or to Clearview or even to the practice pen when I need to.”
Like the majority of athletes at this weekend’s contest, rodeo has been a family affair for Atkings, who started when she was four years old.
Her mom and grandmother were big influences, as was her sister who also competed in high school rodeos in the Peace.
“I remember little rodeos as a kid,” Atkings said when asked to share her earliest rodeo memory. “Me and my friends when I was four would go and trot the pattern in barrels and we just had so much fun hanging out. I used to love going to rodeos cause I’d get to see my friends that lived hours and hours away.”
Two Dawson Creek cowboys will join Atkings in Tennessee — Zane Jones, who is in Grade 8 and Grade 7 student Auzyn Corr.
Corr won the bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding events this past weekend.
“It’s pretty exhilarating,” he said about qualifying for the National rodeo in Tennessee. It’s a good pay off for all the hard work he says he’s put in, practicing every day in his parents yard.
“I’lI usually go home (from school) and do a little homework and then I go and ride,” he said.
As for Jones, he wasn’t very happy with his performance over the weekend.
“I think it could have gone better,” he said. “But I am happy because I qualified for nationals.”
Jones is in his second year of high school rodeo. His inspiration for joining comes from watching YouTube videos of bull riding, he says.
"I went to a clinic and they told me to do high school rodeo so I joined,” he said. “I wasn’t good enough for bull riding, but I did well in chute dogging and the next year I got horses.”
He says he is trying to soak up as much as he can from local rodeo heroes: Ingram Pederson and others.
“Guys (around town) are helpful,” he says. “Those who’ve done it for a while usually help me out a lot.”
The National High School Rodeo runs from June 19-25.