Alaska’s best earn trip to national high school rodeo finals

Posted: Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tanisha Tucker, 17, of Homer grew up on a ranch in Colorado, but she never had an opportunity to be involved with high school rodeo.

Tucker, who just finished her junior year as a home-schooler in the Connections program, took advantage of the opportunity to participate in high school rodeo once she moved to Alaska within the last year.

At the Alaska High School Rodeo Association state finals on Sunday at Soldotna Equestrian Arena, Tucker cleaned up. She was named the state’s high school rodeo association Queen, the All-Around Cowgirl and the Rookie Cowgirl. She finished first in girls cutting, second in girls barrels and second in girls goat tying.

“It was fantastic,” Tucker said. “It’s fortunate that I had the opportunity to be involved in high school rodeo.”

Colten Jensen was the All-Around Cowboy, while John David Wilson was the Rookie Cowboy.

The Alaska High School Rodeo Association, which is now in its third year, held the state finals on Sunday in order find out the qualifiers for the National High School Rodeo Association finals from July 23 to 29 in Springfield, Ill. The national finals, with contestants from 42 states, five Canadian provinces and Australia, has more contestants than any other rodeo in the world. There are usually between 1,500 and 2,000 contestants.

The top four in each event at the state finals make the national team, although not all of the qualifiers elect to go to nationals, said Ina Jones, the state president of the Alaska High School Rodeo Association. Last year, Alaska sent four contestants, while in 2005 Alaska sent seven contestants.

“We try to help with the financial aspect, but it’s quite a commitment to go down there,” Jones said. “Ideally, we’d love for the association to have the kind of sponsorship where we can send everybody down there. We don’t have that yet because people are just hearing about us.”The one contestant the state association is required to send down is the Queen. Natasha Morrison, the coordinator of the queen competition, said contestants are judged on horsemanship, a prepared speech, an impromptu speech, modeling, appearance, personality and knowledge of the rules of rodeo.

“Once the queen is crowned, she’s the spokesperson for the association,” Morrison said. “She has to be mature, well-spoken, hard-working and definitely committed. She’s held to a higher standard.”

The queen is not required to enter any of the rodeo competitions, but Tucker showed her zeal for rodeo by entering every competition she could.

“What made me pursue Queen is all the opportunities it presents,” Tucker said. “I get a scholarship, I get a chance to travel to Springfield and I get a chance to promote the sport of rodeo.”

For winning Queen, Tucker gets a $500 scholarship from the Homer Racing Lions. Other opportunities exist for those that go to nationals. Jones said that of the five seniors that have been to nationals from Alaska in the last two years, all are on college rodeo teams on partial or full scholarship.

Alaska is one of the newest associations at the national finals, which will be in its 59th year. The state has a fast growing reputation in the basket contest, however. Each association makes a basket, which is auctioned to the highest bidder. The proceeds go to help those who are injured at the national finals. Alaska has won best in show in the basket contest the last two years. Two years ago, Alaska won with a dog sled design. Last year, a crab pot put Alaska on top. This year, Alaska is designing a food cache for the contest.

The state finals drew 24 contestants from throughout the state. The contestants qualify for the state finals in three qualifying events. The first is held in August, then after winter two more are quickly held once the snow melts.

“We have to be done a month or six weeks before nationals,” Jones said. “We have snow so late here that it makes it a little difficult.”

The state association has held rodeos in Soldotna and Ninilchik, but as the association expands rodeos could be held in the Matanuska-Susitna valleys or Anchorage. The association also plans to expand competitions to include middle-schoolers.

Alaska High School Rodeo Association

Final standings

Queen — Tanisha Tucker.

All-around Cowboy — Colten Jensen.

All-around Cowgirl — Tanisha Tucker.

Rookie Cowboy — John David Wilson.

Rookie Cowgirl — Tanisha Tucker.

Girls barrels — 1. Tera Schnabl, 58 points; 2. Tanisha Tucker, 50; 3. Laura McKenna, 48.5; 4. Shelby Loop, 41.5.

Girls goat tying — 1. Aurora Lambert, 55.5; 2. Tanisha Tucker, 51.5; 3. Lindsay Schnabl, 44; 4. Shelby Loop, 28.5.

Girls pole bending — 1. Laura McKenna, 63; 2. Shelby Loop, 58; 3. Aurora Lambert, 42; 4. Lindsay Schnabl, 35.

Boys bareback bronc riding — 1. Lance Rowe, 20.

Boys bull riding — 1. Colten Jensen, 59; 2. John David Wilson, 38.

Girls cutting — 1. Tanisha Tucker, 60.

Boys cutting — 1. Colten Jensen, 50.

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