September 2014
Youth Matters

Lassoing Opportunity

Trey Gargis competed on one of the 400 roping teams at the 2014 NHSFR. He shows his roping style in competition. (Credits: Jennings Rodeo Photography)  

Colbert Farmers Co-op’s Trey Gargis makes roping team in National High School Finals Rodeo.

A third-generation team roper, Trey Gargis of Tuscumbia won the opportunity of a lifetime and competed this summer in the 2014 National High School Finals Rodeo.

The high school senior was one of only four students in the Tennessee rodeo circuit to travel to Rock Springs, Wyo., where 1,600 male and female teens vied for top honors.

The largest such event in the world, the National High School Rodeo drew youth from 41 states plus Canada and Australia.

Trey is the son of Amy and Jeff Gargis, and works part-time with his dad at Colbert Farmers Co-op in Leighton. Jeff is assistant general manager at the Co-op.

Trey competed on one of the 400 two-person teams in team roping during the week-long rodeo starting July 19. While he didn’t place, it was his second year to attend and he considers it a valuable experience.

  Trey Gargis with his parents, Amy and Jeff, at the 2014 National High School Rodeo. Credits: Jennings Rodeo Photography)

After he graduates from high school, he plans to study agriculture and hopes to receive a scholarship to the University of Tennessee at Martin and participate in their rodeo program. In June, the UT at Martin team won the national men’s championship with 755 points.

One financial opportunity for Trey could come from the National High School Rodeo Foundation that awards thousands of dollars in scholarships annually to its members.

"It’s a huge experience and an honor to go (to the National High School Rodeo)," said Amy.

With two rodeos each day, one at 9 a.m. and the other at 7 p.m., the atmosphere in Rock Springs was "like nothing you’d imagine," said Trey. "There were lots of people there and a lot of pressure.

"You got to meet people from different places. I met a guy from Australia last year. and we’re still friends."

Team roping emerged out of ranch chores of the past. Today, timed competitions still rely on the skill and cooperation of cowboys and their horses as they work with steers. The goal is to immobilize an animal that’s too big for a lone cowboy to handle by himself.

For those not familiar with rodeos, here are a few details on the fast-paced challenges posed to team roping:

One rider, the header, starts out from the left side of the steer with the job of first roping the steer by its horns or around its neck. After he’s roped the steer, he turns it, giving the second rider, the heeler, a shot at roping the back legs.

When the heeler makes the catch, the header stops his horse, turns to face the heeler and the steer is stretched a bit between the horses. The timer is then stopped, and the time is recorded.

Trained Quarter Horses are typically ridden by the cowboy teams.

Steers usually weigh between 350 and 500 pounds.

Two Oklahoma youths won the team roping finals this year at the National High School Rodeo. Other events included tie-down roping, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, pole bending, bareback riding, barrel racing, breakaway roping, goat tying, bull riding, girls cutting and boys cutting.

To prepare for team roping at the national level, Trey must practice plenty of self-discipline and spend 12 months in training. He has to care for his horse and, as with other sports, he has to maintain his grades.

"I rope three times a week all year long," he said. "I compete on weekends at other rodeos."

To prepare his horse, Trey must keep him healthy and ride him often.

He gives credit to his father for teaching him the basics. Trey’s parents were both team ropers.

"I’ve gotten a lot of support from my mom and dad," Trey said.

As the head of Team Roping events in Tennessee and an alternate for the board of the Tennessee High School Rodeo Association, Jeff Gargis remains highly involved. Trey serves as secretary with the Student Officers.

Officers and board members are elected and live in Mississippi as well as Tennessee and Alabama.

Both parents traveled with Trey to the national championship, driving 27 hours to reach Rock Springs.

"One thing about the rodeo – we are family," said Amy. "We’re very blessed to be a part."

Besides participating in the national rodeo, Trey received a surprise bonus, according to his mother.

Trey was chosen as one of five from the 1,600 teens to model rodeo clothing. A number of professional photos have already been shot.

"I highly recommend the high school rodeo experience," Trey said. "You get a good feeling for the professional level."

Maureen Drost is a freelance writer from Huntsville.