ROCK SPRINGS, Wyo. -- Can Utah break Texas' stranglehold at the National High School Finals Rodeo?
Since 1998, Texas and Utah have dominated the National High School Rodeo Association, with no other state winning a team title in the last 15 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 four-time defending champion Texas by 4,109.33 points last year in finishing eighth -- at the 65th annual National High School Finals Rodeo.
The 13-performance rodeo, being held for the second 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-round NHSFR.
Utah captured its first national rodeo championship in 1996, while sweeping six more National High School Finals Rodeo titles since 2000. Texas outscored Utah, 8,373.33 to 4,264, at last year's NHSFR in Rock Springs.
At last month's Utah High School Rodeo Association State Finals in Heber City, Hailey Lindsey (girls breakaway roping) 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' Savanna Steed (girls goat tying) and Ian Dixon (boys cutting), Ladd King (boys cutting) of Davis County's Double D Rodeo Club and Kacee Waldron (girls cutting) of the Morgan Rodeo Club.
Hodson, a Fremont High School graduate, is a two-time Utah High School Rodeo Association goat tying champion. She is also making her first NHSFR appearance in breakaway roping.
Hodson, who has a rodeo scholarship to Weber State University, finished second in breakaway roping at the 2013 UHSRA State Finals. Lindsey, a junior-to-be at Northern Utah Academy of Math, Engineering & Science, swept the three-run aggregate at 21.24 seconds on three runs at the state finals.
Hodson and King are both two-time National High School Finals Rodeo qualifiers. Lindsey, Steed -- this year's Utah High School Rodeo Association queen -- Dixon and Waldron are each making their inaugural NHSFR appearance.