Local teen to compete in National Junior High Finals Rodeo
Taylor Davis is no stranger to rodeoing. The teenager, who lives between Rifle and Silt, has been interested in competing ever since she could ride a horse, which pretty much started when she could first sit up. This past weekend she traveled to Craig to compete.
Next week, though, will likely be the largest stage to date in her young career. Taylor and her family are traveling to Lebanon, Tennessee for the 12th annual National Junior High Finals Rodeo.
Billed as the world’s largest junior high rodeo, this year’s event runs from June 19 through 25 and will feature roughly 1,000 junior high contestants from 43 states, five Canadian provinces and Australia.
After a successful performance at the Colorado state competition in Lamar at the end of May, Taylor earned entry into four different competitions at the national event. Qualifying for an event requires a top-four finish in the specific discipline at the state level, which is no easy task, said Tori Davis, Taylor’s mother.
Last year was Taylor’s first in the junior high division — she has, and continues to, compete in the Little Britches Rodeo since she was 8.
Although she garnered rookie of the year honors in the junior high division last year, she fell short of making it to the nationals.
“I went in last year and didn’t make it. I was like a couple points out of it and I was pretty disappointed with myself. But this year I was pretty happy that I (was) able to make it in as many events as I did. … I was just super excited,” Taylor said, while conceding her competitive nature carries a high level of expectation when it comes to rodeoing.
Of the four competitions Taylor qualified for in nationals — breakaway, barrels, poles and ribbon roping — breakaway is her favorite, because she puts more time and effort into it and tends to finish better than in the other events, Taylor said, before Tori interjected to add her daughter is also strong in the poles competition.
A week prior to leaving for Tennessee, Taylor said she was doing her best to approach the junior high nationals just like any other rodeo. Dwelling on the magnitude of the event causes increased nervousness.
“So I just want to think of it as a normal rodeo,” she said.
Along those lines, the young athlete — both she and Tori stress that riders and the horses are athletes, despite the fact they do not receive the same recognition athletes in other sports do — has been going about her normal practice routine.
That, Tori added, comes naturally to Taylor.
“I don’t have to tell her to go practice, to go ride, to go get on a horse — she does it daily, by herself,” Tori said.
Taylor’s innate desire stems from a combination of her competitive spirit and the genuine enjoyment that comes with riding.
“I love riding but I also like rodeoing and stuff (because) it’s really competitive. I like competing in things that are competitive because it makes you work harder,” Taylor said. “And since it’s with a horse, I feel like when you win you have more excitement and stuff because it’s not just you. You have a horse you’re training with and it’s just more important to me.”
Her calm approach, though, does not reduce the reality that there is a great deal on the line.
Contestants in the National Junior High Finals Rodeo will be competing for more than $75,000 in prizes and more than $100,000 in college scholarships, as well as a chance to be named a national champion.
To earn the national champion title, contestants must finish in the top 20 — based on their combined times/scores in the first two rounds — to advance to the final round on Saturday night. National champions will then be determined base on their three-round combined times/scores.
Daily results for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo can be found at NHSRA.org.
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A Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins mashup will host its grand opening at 700 Taugenbaugh Blvd. in Rifle on Friday morning. The opening will begin at around 11 a.m.