Jeremy Meledez hangs on during steer riding Tuesday night at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena during the High Plains Junior Rodeo finals. The rodeo will be going on throughout the week. (CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson)
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
As the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association finals began Tuesday in Clovis, it may have surprised some to find out that five states were being represented.
Since all of the 15 rodeos leading up to the finals took place in either the Texas panhandle or in southeastern New Mexico, Casey Furgeson’s presence was unusual.
But there he was, a resident of little Hyannis, Neb. (population: 240, according to Furgeson). This is the second year for 13-year-old Furgeson in the HPJRA circuit. Last year, three rodeos before the finals, Furgeson broke a leg to end his summer of rodeo.
“I’ve been rodeoing down here every year, just not in the High Plains Junior Rodeo, but in this part of the country,” said Furgeson, after recording a time of 6.37 seconds in the calf-touching competition. “They just don’t have many rodeos up there.”
Furgeson said his annual southern migration makes his summer vacation a bit out of the norm, compared to his Nebraska classmates.
“They have no idea how far it is,” Furgeson said. “They just think it’s funny that we come down here to rodeo.”
Others didn’t have to travel such lengths to get to the finals, which will run through Saturday at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena.
In the 16-to-19 year old calf roping, Dustin Pool of Brownfield, Texas, finally hauled in his calf three-quarters of the way down the arena but still got an evening-best time of 12.73 seconds.
Pool, 16, said there were two things that make the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association circuit special for him.
“The money and the friends. I love it, it’s awesome,” said Pool, who added that he never tired of participating in all 15 of the HPJRA pre-finals rodeos. “You can make $400 if you win a round, $800 if you win two rounds.
“It just adds up — it’s a pretty good deal. You get paid every rodeo, but it all builds up to this.”
To gain a spot in the finals, competitors needed to get a point — or, finish in the top 10 — at three of the qualifying rodeos.
For Kenna Armitage of Elida, the finals has been an annual summer event. Or, at least, as long as she can remember competing.
“Since forever, since I was about five. There’s been some new faces, but mostly the same ones,” said Armitage, 20, who is in her last HPJRA finals.
Armitage said there’s no such thing as a retirement ceremony for those, such as herself, who find themselves at the oldest end of the age bracket.
“No, they just say, ‘You’re too old, get out of here,’” Armitage joked.
At the other end of the spectrum, eight-year-old Abby Medlin of Tatum showed she could ride a calf as well as the boys on Tuesday night. Coming into the finals ranked second in the 8 & under calf roping, Medlin rode first and stayed on her calf for the required eight second ride to register a score.
Medlin’s father, Jeff, said that watching his daughter thrown from animals is a short-term proposition for him.
“Well, I guess they (girls) could go all the way up to bullriding, but her daddy says that she’ll be done after the calf riding,” Jeff Medlin said. “But she does a lot of other things too. This isn’t the only event that she’s in.”