Cowboys and cowgirls from all over Alabama and parts of North Florida gathered at the Covington Center Arena in Andalusia to compete in the 2009 Alabama High School Rodeo Association (AHSRA) Finals.
AHSRA contestants competed in 18 high school rodeos in Alabama and one in Florida throughout the year leading up to the championship event on June 17-20. At high school rodeos, contestants compete for prize money and points, which rank them accordingly by the event they participate in.
In addition to the usual seven events featured in professional rodeos – steer wrestling, tie-down calf roping, team roping, girl’s barrel racing, bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding – high school rodeo also includes breakaway roping, goat tying, pole bending, and boys and girls cutting.
The winner from each event at the high school finals was awarded a trophy saddle and a buckle. A buckle was also given to the contestants who finished one place behind the champion.
The AHSRA also awards an All-Around Champion Cowboy and All-Around Champion Cowgirl. To be eligible for the all-around title, contestants must earn points in at least two different events. The cowboy and cowgirl with the most points accumulated at the end of the AHSRA finals becomes the all-around champion. As well as taking home a saddle and buckle, the all-around champions also receive $2,000 scholarships to be applied towards their college educations in the future.
"Quality Co-ops around the state sponsored our all-around saddle this year," said AHSRA State Treasurer Tina Snowden of Andalusia. "I’m not sure how many years the Co-ops have sponsored the saddle, but they have been doing it for as long as I can remember."
"Without sponsors, none of this would be possible," Snowden added. "We are very thankful to have such generous sponsors."
Taking home the title of All-Around Champion Cowboy this year was Zackery Wilson of Billingsley. Wilson competed in the tie-down calf roping, steer wrestling, team roping and boys cutting. The All-Around Champion Cowgirl was Ashley Hudmon of Opelika. Hudmon competed in all of the girl’s events: barrel racing, breakaway roping, pole bending, goat tying and cutting.
This year the AHSRA presented nine scholarships to rodeo contestants, besides the two awarded to the all-around champions.
Brittany Snowden of Andalusia took home one of the $500 AHSRA scholarships as well the Lurleen B. Wallace Community College Scholarship for one full year.
Snowden competes in breakaway roping, pole bending, goat tying and barrel racing. For the third consecutive year, Snowden took home first place in the goat tying.
"Even though I won the goat tying for the third year in a row, this being my senior year was the best, knowing all my hard work was worth it," Snowden said after the win.
Snowden, 18, has been involved in rodeos for five years and considers interacting with people who share the same love for the sport of rodeo as she does as her favorite thing about competing.
"I got into riding horses because my mom, Tina, grew up riding horses." Snowden said. "I was influenced by her to get into rodeoing."
During the summer Snowden traveled to Farmington, N.M., to compete against cowgirls from all across the country in the National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) finals.
AHSRA contestants who placed in the top four spots in each event at the finals joined Snowden at the NHSRA finals on July 19-25.
High school senior, Josh Carden of Elberta, was one of the cowboys who competed at the NHSRA finals. Carden qualified for the finals in two events, steer wrestling and bull riding. He finished second in the steer wrestling and fourth in the bull riding. Carden also competed in tie-down calf roping and bareback riding, but considers steer wrestling and bull riding to be his main events.
When he is not at a high school rodeo, the 18-year-old competes in Professional Cowboys Association (PCA) rodeos around the Southeast and Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association (SEBRA) bull ridings.
"High school rodeo is great for people coming up from junior rodeo trying to get to the pros," said Carden, who serves as the student president for the AHSRA. "It’s the best thing."
"In the AHSRA, you’ve got people in your competition level – your age, from all over Alabama coming together with the same idea; coming together as a family," Carden said.
Carden will be attending Western Texas College in the fall on a rodeo and academic scholarship.
"I want to go out there and start college rodeoing and hopefully make the College National Finals my first year," said Carden, whose rodeo career began ten years ago when he started riding calves.
"I am going to hit a lot of the big pro rodeos," Carden added. "The college is in Snyder, Texas, so it’s right there in the big rodeo country."
The final results for the AHSRA finals are as follows:
Boys Cutting: 1) Kyle Wyatt of Kinston, 2) Zackery Wilson of Billingsley, 3) Lane Taylor of Opp, 4) Ryan Frolik of Loxley
Girls Cutting: 1) Natalie Thompson of Robertsdale, 2) Ashley Hudmon of Opelika, 3) Lexus Simpson of Robertsdale, 4) Raven Simpson of Robertsdale
Bareback Riding: 1) Drew Arkuszeski of Elmore, 2) Josh Carden of Elberta
Saddle Bronc Riding: 1) Drew Arkuszeski of Elmore, 2) Kade Kressman of Bascom, FL
Steer Wrestling: 1) Buddy Bush of Montgomery, 2) Josh Carden of Elberta, 3) Kade Kressman of Bascom, FL, 4) Jesse Cook of Prattville
Breakaway Roping: 1) Chrissy Morris of Wetumpka, 2) Raven Simpson of Robertsdale, 3) Lexus Simpson of Robertsdale, 4) Ashley Hudmon of Opelika
Tie-Down Calf Roping: 1) Kyle Wyatt of Kinston, 2) Zackery Wilson of Billingsley, 3) Jesse Cook of Prattville, 4) Will Saucer of Montgomery
Pole Bending: 1) Ronni Pharez of Fairhope, 2) Brooke Davenport of Chipley, FL, 3) Raven Simpson of Robertsdale, 4) Ashley Hudmon of Opelika
Goat Tying: 1) Brittany Snowden of Andalusia, 2) Ashley Hudmon of Opelika, 3) Natalie Thompson of Robertsdale, 4) Chrissy Morris of Wetumpka
Team Roping: 1) Lane Taylor of Opp, Nelson Wyatt of Clanton, 2) Tyler Hoagland of Harpersville, Zackery Wilson of Billingsley, 3) Jacob Locke of Defuniak Springs, FL, Ty Alford of Defuniak Springs, FL, 4) Kyle Wyatt of Kinston, Russin Wilson of Montgomery
Barrel Racing: 1) Chrissy Morris of Wetumpka, 2) Lexus Simpson of Robertsdale, 3) Josey Owens of Troy, 4) Raven Simpson of Robertsdale
Bull Riding: 1) Josh Moorer of Oneonta, 2) Drew Arkuszeski of Elmore, 3) Cole Long 4) Josh Carden of Elberta
Boy’s All-Around: 1) Zackery Wilson of Billingsley, 2) Kyle Wyatt of Kinston, 3) Lane Taylor of Opp, 4) Nelson Wyatt of Clanton
Girl’s All-Around: 1) Ashley Hudmon of Opelika, 2) Lexus Simpson of Robertsdale, 3) Chrissy Morris of Wetumpka, 4) Raven Simpson of Robertsdale
Mary-Glenn Smith is an AFC intern.