HEBER CITY -- Meggen Hodson has been to the National High School Finals Rodeo, but not as a contestant.
That may change over the ensuing two days as Hodson, of the Ogden-based Spikers Rodeo Club, pursues a trophy saddle in girls goat tying at the Utah High School Rodeo Association State Finals.
Hodson, a senior-to-be this fall at Fremont High School, was up in Wednesday's first performance with her time of 7.34 seconds holding through two more rodeo performances -- the first round was completed Thursday under crystal-clear skies -- at the Wasatch County Event Center.
"I was surprised to win the round," she said. "There are a lot of good girls here and the competition is close."
The 17-year-old Hodson carried in 68 of a maximum 70 points into the state finals, which consist of two long rounds plus a championship short round.
"I drew a good goat, one of the better ones," she said. "I went with my gut feeling and took another wrap -- three total -- to make sure he stayed down. I was number nine out in the first performance."
Hodson, a three-time UHSRA State Finals qualifier in goat tying and breakaway roping, gets her second-round goat in Friday's sixth performance.
"I came here Tuesday and watched the goats run," she said. "They didn't tie them down, but it kind of gives you an idea of what they might do."
The top four in each of the 12 events after Saturday's short round, with additional season points also figured in, earn berths at the National High School Finals Rodeo.
The 64th annual NHSFR will be July 15-21 at the Sweetwater Events Complex in Rock Springs, Wyo., the first year of a four-year contract.
Hodson attended last year's National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyo., to watch her older sister, Jessie, compete in goat tying.
Jessie, the 2011 Utah High School Rodeo Association reserve goat tying champion and the state finals winner (22.94 on three runs) broke her ankle while competing in a jackpot the day before she was up at the NHSFR.
Hodson was riding her 18-year-old mare, Kalee, in the first performance.
"We bought her when she was 10-11 years old," she said. "Kalee is honest and never leaves you. She stays straight and doesn't duck off when you're ready to dismount."
Hodson's 6-year-old gelding, Stick, carried her to fifth place -- a 4.04-second run during Wednesday's second performance -- in breakaway roping.
"We bought him when he was 3," she said. "I got one down and placed in the round, so I'm happy."
Hodson, who carried only 44 points into the UHSRA State Finals, makes her second run in today's sixth performance.
"I like tying goats the best because of the adrenaline rush," she said. "I was splitting first and second coming into the state finals, and I've never qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo.
Hodson finished fifth last year, one hole away from securing a NHSFR berth.
"It's my goal to make nationals in goat tying," she said. "If I keep my head on and be smooth, then I have a great chance. I played basketball and softball in junior high, but I had to make a choice between three sports and rodeo won.
"This is the first time I've won a round at the state finals," said Hodson, who won the goat tying (25.301 on three runs) at the first Intermountain Icebreaker High School Invitational Rodeo on March 8-10 at Ogden's Golden Spike Event Center.
Double D's Taylor King is a three-time National High School Finals Rodeo qualifier in girls cutting.
The 2011 UHSRA reserve girls cutting champion only scored 122 points in Thursday's first round. She carried an event-leading 681/2 points into the state finals, but didn't earn any first-round points.
King, a Davis High graduate, is working four events -- breakaway roping, pole bending, team roping and cutting -- this week.
"Barrels and goats aren't my thing," said King, 18, a four-time Utah High School Rodeo Association State Finals qualifier, who took third in the first round of breakaway roping (3.94 seconds).
"I got out perfectly," she said. "I wasn't late at the barrier. I actually pushed the barrier a little bit; I knew I had to be fast."
King carried 59 points in breakaway roping into the state finals.
"I wanted to win, but knew I didn't have to. I just wanted to finish in the top four," she said. "I just need to get out and make another clean run (today) and finish in the top four again. This year I'm hoping to qualify in both breakaway and cutting."
King was atop her 10-year-old mare, Jillena, for Wednesday's first run.
"We raised her and she is a hyper horse," she said. "Jillena will get drowsy sometimes before a run, but I know when she does it that I will have a good run. She is a hot, hot horse.
"I've been consistent all year, drawing well and placing at every rodeo. I've never missed a rodeo in four years. I've been sick but I've still rodeoed," said King, who has a rodeo scholarship to Weber State University this fall.
"I like both events and it's a dream of mine to make the National High School Finals Rodeo in breakaway roping. I love cutting, too," she said. "I quit playing softball when I got to high school."
King made a 21.205-second run in pole bending -- placing eighth -- and was 11th in team roping (13.055) with Jamie Christensen, of Grantsville.
King's younger brother, Ladd, who is a UHSRA rookie, took third in the first round of tie-down roping (11.26 seconds). He split second and third in boys cutting (144 points), while carrying 70 points into the state finals.