Rodeo nights ahead for students

Mary-Glenn Smith
High school rodeo contestant, Hannah Washburn of Sulphur leads her horse Sissy into the stall at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center on Monday.

For most high school students, summer is the time for hitting the swimming pool with friends to keep cool, but that’s not the case students who compete in the Louisiana High School Rodeo Association.

With the LHSRA finals underway, cowboys and cowgirls from across the state are spending their days in the hot sun preparing for the night’s rodeo competition at Lamar-Dixon Expo Center.

The LHSRA finals kicked off Sunday and will continue through Saturday with rodeo performances nightly at 7.

Hannah Washburn, a high school senior from Sulphur was just one of the many contestants out at the barns on Monday working hard to get her horse, Sissy, ready for the rodeo.

Washburn, who first started rodeoing when she was 7, competes in the barrel racing and pole bending competition.

“My mom rodeoed and her parents rodeoed; I am just keeping that going,” Washburn said. “Following the tradition.”

Washburn qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals her 9th and 10th year, but missed out on the national finals last year while battling cancer.

Last year, Washburn competed in the LHSRA finals with thyroid cancer. She had to have her thyroid removed and take radiation pills to beat the cancer, but she is not letting it slow her down this year.

“I am hoping to qualify for the NHSRA finals again this year,” Washburn said. “I am sitting second in barrels right now so I think I have a pretty good shot.”

Washburn is also ranked 9th in the pole bending and sits in 10th place of the All-Around Cowgirl competition.

After high school, Washburn plans to attend McNeese State on a rodeo scholarship and major in accounting.

The stakes at the finals are high for Washburn and the more than 300 other high school students, who qualified for the finals based on cumulative points from rodeos throughout the season.

The top four performers in each of the 12 events at the end of the state finals will advance to the NHSRA finals in Gillette, Wyo on July 18-24.

Ike Fontenot, 16, from Ville Platte is another contestant hoping to succeed at the state finals and make it the NHSRA finals.

“It’s great coming here to the state finals,” Fontenot said. “Getting to rodeo, making lifelong friends and having fun.”

Fontenot competes in the team roping and the tie-down calf roping and began rodeoing at the young age of 3.

“My parents rodeoed,” said Fontenot who will be a senior at Mamou High School next year. “So I just grew up rodeoing.”

Fotenot hopes to one day rodeo professionally in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).

In addition to the usual seven events featured in professional rodeos – steer wrestling, tie-down calf roping, team roping, 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 cutting competition began on Saturday and concluded on Sunday.

Dalton Boudreaux of Grand Lake High School finished at the top in the boys cutting with 95 total points followed by Josh Burns of Buckeye High with 89.75. Rounding out the top four was Roddy Dubois of Kaplan High with 76.25 points and Clem Zievert of Vinton High with 65.

Finishing in the top four in the girls cutting was Blair Bouget of Faith Christian Academy with 97 points, Lexie Canik of South Cameron High School with 84.5 points, home school student Darby  Shope with 78 and Amie Ferguson of Notre Dame High with 75.5 points.