The Free Press, Mankato, MN

June 1, 2013

Youth rodeo draws hundreds to St. Peter

By Dan Linehan
The Free Press

ST PETER —

A mounted Jacqueline Lucas charges down the ring, makes a smooth dismount and begins to chase a small goat tethered to a stake.
The fleeing goat tries to turn quickly but falls to the ground, saving this seventh-grader from Jordan the trouble. She holds it down, ties together three of its legs and throws her hands in the air. It’s basically as if Jared Allen has recorded a sack, except that it involves middle-schoolers and little goats.
She finishes with a time of 15.25 seconds, roughly in the middle of a pack of 10 girls and about five seconds slower than the winning time. The dismount can be challenging, her older sister says, watching. Or the goat can be a problem.
“Depends on the goat,” she said. 
The sisters, Jacqueline and McKayla, were among 140 middle- and high-schoolers in St. Peter on Friday and Saturday to compete in one of the state’s last youth rodeo events of the school year. This is the sixth year this rodeo has been held in St. Peter.
Three of the four Lucas sisters are in rodeo, and these girls are drawn to the sport, as are many, by its tight-knit social group.
Chance Oftedahl, a Pemberton junior, agrees. Every weekend he can’t make it, he misses.
The sport is run by an independent association, not the state high school league. There are about 10 competitions in Minnesota in a given school year, though Oftedahl and others compete out of the state, as well. 
Like other athletes, many of these students are competing with a college scholarship in mind, said Chance’s mother, Leanne. He certainly is.
His favorite events involve a rope. He and his partner took first place in team roping earlier Saturday. 
These girls prefer the barrel race, which is a race against the clock, around a series of barrels. They like it because it’s just you and your horse. No calf to worry about, no judge’s opinion to wonder about.
Chance and his mother say rodeo is a safe sport, though he got a concussion once after a head-to-head collision with a calf he was about to rope. 
Nick Bjork, a Mankato sixth-grader, competed in an event called the “breakaway,” in which the rider ropes a calf. If the roping is successful, the rope breaks away and falls loose. 
Bjork succeeds in less than five seconds, but gets a 10-second penalty for “breaking the barrier,” which is a little like a false start. Still, he’s pleased because many of his competitors will fail to lasso the calf altogether.
Like the other middle schoolers, he’s competing for the right to go to the national competition, in New Mexico. The high school students will have a similar qualifying tournament in two weeks in Hugo.
After his run, Bjork sped off on his horse, Barrett, taking a broad loop around the ring and coming back to the starting point to talk with a fellow rider.