Abby Medlin races to the finish line after running her horse through the poles in the 9-12 age group in Saturday’s short-go of the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association finals at Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
In essence, the last day of the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association Finals is kind of like the figure skating and gymnastics exhibitions at the Olympics — after the medals have already been presented.
Most of the winners on Saturday had a reasonably large cushion entering the short go-round at Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena. With a maximum of five points awarded to the victors on the final day, only a close battle would be affected.
MiShae Griffin of Lovington, however, was in just such a competition. Griffin entered the pole-bending finals for 16-19 year olds with a 12-point advantage over Heather Baros — a margin built up over a series of rodeos throughout eastern New Mexico and west Texas that preceded the finals.
But Griffin, 16, saw her advantage begin to slip away during the week of competition in Clovis. With subpar performances in the first two go-rounds, Griffin knew her margin over Baros was getting tighter and tighter heading into the last day.
“I think she was one point behind me going into this,” Griffin said. “I feel really bad because I told her — I didn’t know she didn’t know (the point differential).
“I hated that, because I was nervous and was just talking and said that. Then she started to get kind of nervous, I think. I was trying to get her to calm down, but I don’t know.”
In pole bending, the contestants take their horses on a quick gallop down the length of several poles lined up in a row. Turning back, the competitors weave in and out of the poles twice before galloping back to the starting position in the arena.
For Baros, who had the overall best average from the first two go-rounds for the five finalists, one pole — the third from the end — created havoc for the challenger. Knocking that one down, incurring an automatic five-second penalty, Baros’ horse then went past the next pole on the wrong side.
Determined to finish the run, Baros finally managed to maneuver her horse around the pole in the right direction — after valuable time was lost — and she finished with a no-time.
The overall winners at the HPJRA Finals earned saddles for their efforts.
Although her time of 21.694 seconds in the short-go — along with Baros’ bad run — ensured Griffin would win one of those saddles, she didn’t take a great deal of pleasure in the result.
“It made me feel really bad,” Griffin said. “Her horse had been giving her some trouble, but she had been doing really good. I just wish she could have ran her best and I could have ran my best and we could tell out of that.”
In the 9-12 year old goat tying event, Clovis’ Teryn Tate was like many of the contestants in the lead heading into the short-go: reasonably sure of overall victory, but guarded nonetheless.
“I was about 10 points ahead, but now I’m not sure,” said Tate, whose closest rival didn’t qualify as one of the five to get into the short-go for the extra available points. Her next nearest foe was a distant 20 points back when the week of rodeo events began.
Tate, 10, said she was hoping to get her first prize saddle from the HPJRA, although she is already familiar with what they look like.
“My brother wins them all the time,” she said.