Steamboat Springs Joel Schlegel has learned that sometimes the bucks don't go your way.
The Burns resident and recent Soroco High School graduate wrapped up a string of first-place bareback riding wins to finish the spring season of Colorado State High School Rodeo Association events as the state's No. 2 rider. At the state championships June 21 to 23 in Golden, Schlegel looked to have a state title in the bag.
But Schlegel's second ride - one that ended one second before it could be scored - cost Schlegel the two precious points he needed to beat Cortez rider Bradley Dennison.
The runner-up finish still was good enough to qualify Schlegel for the National High School Rodeo Finals, which started Sunday and continue through Saturday evening's Championship Performance in Springfield, Ill.
Knowing how the line between rodeo success and failure boils down to a few seconds, Schlegel was hoping to ride his best in his first of two bareback rides during Wednesday morning's performance.
Unfortunately, the state's Class 2A, third-place 130-pound wrestler could not hang on.
"It was not very good - I got on my first horse today and got bucked," Schlegel said by phone.
Schlegel said he also was scheduled to ride in the Wednesday evening performance but that even with a high-scoring ride he would be unable to qualify for the top 15 who make it to the Championship Performance.
"It didn't go as planned, but hopefully, I'll have a good one tonight," Schlegel said, looking ahead to the chance to make some prize money as one of the evening go-around's top six finishers.
Also competing in the nationals was Travis Darling, who grew up in Steamboat Springs but finished high school this spring in Ignacio. Darling won a state title in horse cutting and took second in saddle bronc riding. At the end of the nationals' first go-around, Darling was tied for 15th in the overall cutting standings out of 93 competitors and just eight points off the leader.
In the fall, Darling plans to attend Casper College in Wyoming, and Schlegel will attend Vernon College in Vernon, Texas, where both will continue rodeo competition at the collegiate level.
Visit www.nhsra.org for updated results.