ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. -- Since 1998, Texas and Utah have dominated the National High School Rodeo Association, with no other state winning a team title in the last 14 years.
Spanning 1991-94, Texas was the state to beat in high school rodeo. Today, the Utah National Team starts its quest to regain the team title -- Utah swept three consecutive NHSRA titles from 2006-08, but lost to three-time defending champion Texas by 1,510 points last year -- at the 64th annual National High School Finals Rodeo.
The 13-performance rodeo, being held for the first time at the Sweetwater Events Complex, gets under way tonight and concludes with Saturday night's championship short round for the top 20 contestants in the aggregate in 12 high school rodeo events.
Cowboys and cowgirls from 41 states, five Canadian provinces and Australia are vying for national titles, prizes and a share of more than $200,000 in college scholarships at the three go-round NHSFR.
The National High School Rodeo Association has an annual membership of approximately 13,000 students from grades six through 12 and sanctions more than 1,100 rodeos each year.
Utah captured its first national rodeo championship in 1996, while sweeping six more National High School Finals Rodeo titles since 2000.
Texas outscored Utah, 10,085 to 8,575, at last year's NHSFR in Gillette, Wyo.
The National High School Finals Rodeo will be staged in Rock Springs, Wyo., through the 2015 season.
At last month's Utah High School Rodeo Association State Finals in Heber City, Timmi Ward (girls barrel racing) of the Bear River Rodeo Club and Meggen Hodson (girls goat tying) of the Ogden-based Spikers Rodeo Club, each won a state trophy saddle in their respective events.
They are joined on the Utah National Team by the Spikers' Jessica Brinkerhoff (girls breakaway roping) and Ladd King (boys cutting) of Davis County's Double D Rodeo Club.
Ward, the 2010 UHSRA barrel racing champion, was this year's state finals winner at 53.163 seconds on three runs. The Bear River High School graduate has a full-ride scholarship to the College of Southern Idaho.
Hodson, a Fremont High senior-to-be this fall, also was a Utah High School Rodeo Association State Finals winner (22.14 on three runs).
Ward is a two-time NHSFR qualifier, with Hodson, Brinkerhoff and King each making their inaugural National High School Finals Rodeo appearance.