Young cowboys, cowgirls off to rodeo finals

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— Eight Routt County athletes will put their hopes for a state title on the line this week as they open competition at the Colorado High School Rodeo Finals in Greeley.

"It's a pretty neat experience," local cowgirl Kaycee Samuelson said. "I get to see a lot of friends and a lot of people I know from other rodeos."

Among the athletes headed to Greeley are Genny McGeary, Jake Booco, Samuelson, Cody Denning, Sedar Thurston, Travis Woods and Levi Hoffman. All of the athletes are part of the Routt County/Soroco Rodeo team. Kaylee Myers of the Steamboat Springs rodeo team will also be competing in Greeley.

"I've always had a love for rodeo," Samuelson said. "I just enjoy rodeoing, and the state finals are just a great experience."

This year's state finals rodeo (which is actually six performances) will open at 10 a.m. today with the first of two performances. The second will be a

7 p.m. tonight. The high school rodeo will continue Thursday and Friday with a short go-round set for Saturday's finale. The top four riders for the week will earn an invitation to the National High School finals which will take place in Springfield, Ill., July 23-29. Athletes placing in fifth through 10th place will be invited to the Silver State finals, according to coach Alicia Samuelson.

"It's great because I get to see all my friends who are my age. It's also fun to chase around and fight for a chance to go to Illinois for the Nationals," cowboy Jake Booco said.

Booco, who will be a senior next year, has grown up on a small ranch near Hayden and has been riding bulls since he was 7 or 8 years of age.

Last weekend he placed second in a bull riding event at the Romick Rodeo Arena in Steamboat Springs. He is still too young to claim a PRCA card and ride professionally, but that hasn't stopped him from winning a few bucks in rodeos this summer.

"It still pays pretty well," Booco said of the high school event. "It doesn't pay like last weekend, but it's still nice to be paid when you ride."

The Routt County team will head to Greeley with high hopes this season.

McGeary left earlier this week to compete for the state rodeo queen title.

That title will be determined by how contestants stack up in a number of competitions including speech, interviewing, horsemanship and rodeo knowledge. The winner will also advance to the national level.

In addition to competing for queen, McGeary will also test her skills in the arena in barrels, pole bending, cutting and goat tying. She is currently ranked fifth in the cutting event according to her coach.

Booco will take part in bare and bull riding events, as well as, team roping. He is currently ranked in the top-10 in the state in each of the events, but feels his only realistic chance for a title will come in the bull riding.

"All of the top riders are within a few points of each other," Booco said. "It should be pretty exciting."

Kaycee Samuelson will take part in breakaway, pole bending and Cody Denning is set to compete in the saddle bronc event.

Sedar Thurston will also make the trip and is currently ranked 10th in the state in barrel racing and third in cutting. She will also take part in the pole bending event. The final two local cowboys, Travis Wood an Levi Hoffman, will take part in the team roping event.

For Kaycee Samuelson this week's event could be her last at the high school level. However, the Soroco High School senior isn't focusing on that or her results.

"I just want to go down there and do the best I can do and have some fun," Samuelson said. "Hopefully I will be able to rodeo at the college level someday."

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