The Nebraska High School Rodeo season wrapped up last weekend with the high school finals in Hastings at the Adams County Fairgrounds. Rodeo athletes from across the Cornhusker State competed in two go-rounds on June 17-18 and the short go-round on June 19. The top four contestants in each of fifteen events were determined, and they will go on to compete at the National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) in Lincoln, Nebraska, at the Lancaster Events Center July 18-24.
The 2020-2021 champions are Spencer Denaeyer, Seneca, bareback riding; Elle Ravenscroft, Nenzel, barrel racing; Cooper Bass, Brewster, boys cutting; Jaya Nelson, Bassett, breakaway roping; Hunter Boydston, Grover, Colo., bull riding; Mekenna Fisher, Hershey, girls cutting; Wacey Day, Fleming, Colo., goat tying; Madison Mills, Eddyville, pole bending; Brody McAbee, Ansley, saddle bronc riding; Dane Pokorny, Stapleton, steer wrestling; Hayes Wetzel, Palmer, team roping header; Ryan Shepherd, North Platte, team roping heeler; Tate Talkington, Scottsbluff, tie-down roping; Tatum Olson, Bloomfield, reined cow horse; Jate Saults, Big Springs, light rifle shooting, and Tanner Ellis, Minden, trap shooting.
Boys rookie of the year is Hayden Stump, Elsmere, and the girls rookie of the year is Clancy Jo Brown, North Platte. Cooper Bass is the year-end boys all-around champion; Wacey Day is the year-end girls all-around champion. Girls state finals all-around winner was Madison Mills, Eddyville, and the boys state finals all-around winner went to Tate Talkington, Scottsbluff.
The 2021-2022 Miss Nebraska High School Rodeo queen is Ashton Werth, Hyannis.
The following are synopses of some of the champions.
Barrel racing champion – Elle Ravenscroft, Nenzel (picture by Steph Miller)
Elle Ravenscroft led the pack all year long, with her competitors in the rearview mirror.
The Nenzel cowgirl led the barrel racing rankings the entire year, and even with a bobble at state finals, finished as the 2021 state barrel racing champion.
Going into state, she was twenty points ahead of the number two cowgirl, Taci Flinn. In the first round, she finished fifth; in the second round, she tipped a barrel to add a five second penalty to her time and take her out of the placings.
In the short round, she finished second behind Flinn. “She was on my back the whole finals,” Ravenscroft said. “Being chased is not a great feeling. I had great competition and that was a little intimidating at times.”
She didn’t realize she had won the state title till the announcer mentioned it. “I was holding my breath,” she said.
She’s excited to compete at the NHSFR in Lincoln, because of its proximity. “It’s hometown. I think there will be pressure to represent your state well. I’m really excited about it.”
The 2021 Cody-Kilgore High School graduate won’t compete in collegiate rodeo; she will play basketball at Chadron (Neb.) State College, where she’ll pursue a degree in physical education and health.
She was recruited by both the basketball and rodeo coaches, but chose basketball. “That was honestly, a big decision. I decided we’re going to try basketball. I can always rodeo in the summer. I wanted the opportunity to play basketball because rodeo’s always going to be there.”
She is the daughter of Eric and Shannon Ravenscroft.
Bareback riding champion – Spencer Denaeyer, Seneca (picture by Steph Miller)
Spencer Denaeyer was the only bareback rider to make three qualified rides at state, to win the state title.
Entering state finals, he was three and a half points behind Tanner Drueke.
“I just went in super motivated, knowing I had my work cut out,” he said. “I had people to chase, and I think that honestly improved my performance more than anything.”
This is his second qualification for the NHSFR; his first one was as a freshman, which didn’t go as well as he would have liked. That provides incentive for this year. “I think it’s time to take advantage of the fact that it’s in Lincoln. It’s time to give it everything I’ve got and compete with all the year-end champs. It’ll be tough. It’ll be time to put the pedal to the floor.”
Denaeyer will be a senior at Mullen High School this fall; he participates in football, wrestling, and track and was on the honor roll for two quarters this year.
He is the son of Martin and Bree Denaeyer.
Goat tying champion – Wacey Day, Fleming, Colo.
The closest race in all of the events came down to the goat tying, with eighteen-year-old cowgirl Wacey Day winning the title by one point over the number two cowgirl, Jessica Stevens.
It was a roller coaster year, with ups and downs all season, but at state, Wacey dominated, winning both the first and second round and the short round as well. “I didn’t have a choice but to do that if I wanted to win it,” she said.
She also finished second in the breakaway roping and will compete at Nationals in that as well. This will be her fourth trip to Nationals.
The salutatorian of the of Lone Star High School Class of 2021, she will attend Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo. this fall and get her prerequisites done before transferring to another school to work towards a certification in radiology. She will rodeo collegiately, in the goat tying, breakaway roping, barrel racing, and team roping.
The daughter of Shane and Heather Day, Wacey is also the year-end all-around winner.
Pole bending champion – Madison Mills, Eddyville
Madison Mills’ 2021 pole bending title was the third state championship the Eddyville cowgirl has won.
She led the state the entire year, and felt a little pressure from freshman Clancy Jo Brown, but after four years of high school state qualifications and two years of junior high, she’s taught herself how to handle the pressure.
“I’ve learned how to deal with it and calm my nerves,” she said. “I tell myself, ‘it’s nothing new, I’ve been doing it for six years (through high school and junior high rodeo), we practice all week long,’ so I trust my horse and my own riding ability and that’s how I calm myself down.”
The Sumner-Eddyville-Miller High School graduate will attend Mid-Plains Community College in McCook this fall to study criminal justice. She has decided to forego college rodeo, at least for her freshman year, to be able to concentrate on her studies. “Rodeo will take up a lot of time and practice and I’d rather focus on school,” she said.
She also finished in third place in the barrels and will be at Nationals in that event as well.
She is the daughter of Matt and Melissa McTygue.
Light rifle champion – Jate Saults, Big Springs
Jate Saults is the light rifle champion for the Nebraska State High School Rodeo Association.
State competition was held in an indoor shooting range, which was beneficial, he said, with no bad weather to affect the competitors.
He shot a personal best, with a final score of 298 out of 320. “That was a really good day for me.”
This will be Saults’ third trip to Nationals in the shooting; he will also compete in the team roping at the NHSFR, having won second with header Brent Charlton.
He’s ready to be in Lincoln for Nationals. “I’m looking forward to representing Nebraska. I think a lot of kids will really like how big our city is and how much there is to do. When you’re in Rock Springs (Wyoming, where former NHSFR events have been held), it’s out in the middle of nowhere.”
Nebraska High School Qualifiers for the 2021 National High School Finals Rodeo in Lincoln, Neb. July 18-24.
Champion: Spencer Denaeyer, Seneca
2. Tanner Drueke, Sutherland
3. Cole Kerner, Sutherland
4. Tate Miller, Springview
Champion: Elle Ravenscroft, Nenzel
2. Taci Flinn, Arcadia
3. Madison Mills, Eddyville
4. Jenae Whitaker, Chambers
Alternate -Clancy Jo Brown, North Platte
Champion: Cooper Bass, Brewster
2. Hayden Jennings, Seneca
3. Cody Miller, Broken Bow
4. Bo Bushhousen, St. Libory
Alternate – Tatum Olson, Bloomfield
Champion: Jaya Nelson, Bassett
2. Wacey Day, Fleming, Colo.
3. Jace Hurlburt, Arcadia
4. Tehya From, Crookston
Alternate – Emma Ohm, Hyannis
Champion:. Hunter Boydston, Grover, Colo.
2. Cole Kerner, Sutherland
3. Tanner Drueke, Sutherland
4. Dalton Garey, Broken Bow
Alternate – Drew Farrell, Merriman
Champion: Mekenna Fisher, Hershey
2. Peyton Fisher, Hershey
3. Faith Storer, Arthur
4. Whitney Jennings, Seneca
Alternate -Emma Pearson, Broken Bow
Champion:. Wacey Day, Fleming, Colo.
2. Jessica Stevens, Creighton
3. Emma Ohm, Hyannis
4. Kaci Wickersham, Verdigre
Alternate – Kinley Greenough, Kearney
Champion: Madison Mills, Eddyville
2. Clancy Jo Brown, North Platte
3. Abigail Lawton, Overton
4. Jenae Whitaker, Chambers
Alternate – Lauren Lehl, Alliance
Saddle bronc riding
Champion: Brody McAbee, Ansley
2. Leif Meidell, Harrison
3. Monty Bailey, Lakeside
4. Dean Schroder, Taylor
Alternate – Augustus Painter, Ainsworth
Champion: Dane Pokorny, Stapleton
2. Coy Johnston, Stapleton
3. Rhett Witt, Valentine
4. Rex Day, Bartlett
Alternate – Gage Davis, Cody
Champions: Hayse Wetzel, Palmer and Ryan Shepherd, North Platte.
2. Brent Charlton, North Platte and Jate Saults, Big Springs
3. Cooper Bass, Brewster and Zack Bradley, Brewster
4. Jace Hurlburt, Arcadia and Tate Talkington, Scottsbluff
Alternate – Jasper Neal, Amherst, Sage Dieter, Alma
Champion: Tate Talkington, Scottsbluff
2. Layne Wallinger, Stuart
3. Trace Travnicek, Minatare
4. Matthew Miller, Callaway
Alternate – Rhett Witt, Valentine
Reined cow horse
Champion: Tatum Olson, Bloomfield
2. Tate Talkington, Scottsbluff
3 (tie) Charlie Bortner, McCook, and Tucker Gillespie, McCook
Alternate – Hope Brosius, Enders
Light rifle shooting
Champion: Jate Saults, Big Springs
2. Cooper Phillips, Burwell
3. Kalyn Nielsen, Verdigre
4. Hope Brosius, Enders
Alternate – Justin Wenzel, Arthur
Champion: Tanner Ellis, Minden
2. Ashton Higgins, Neligh
3. Justin Wenzel, Arthur
4. Ty Growcock, Barlett
Alternate – Shealynn Rasmussen, Burwell
Nenzel’s Elle Ravenscroft won the barrel racing title for the 2020-2021 Neb. High School Rodeo Association. A graduate of Cody-Kilgore High School, she will play basketball at Chadron College this fall. Photo by Steph Miller.
Spencer Denaeyer, Seneca, is the 2020-2021 Nebraska High School bareback riding champion. He will be a senior at Mullen High School this fall. Photo by Steph Miller.