Killdeer sends four cowboys, cowgirls to National High School Finals Rodeo
Ty Truchan and Hayes LeMieux have been a roping tandem for just about a year, but the learning curve appears to have been negated mighty quickly.The duo, from Killdeer and Manning, respectively, found fast success and hope that trend continues wh...
Ty Truchan and Hayes LeMieux have been a roping tandem for just about a year, but the learning curve appears to have been negated mighty quickly.
The duo, from Killdeer and Manning, respectively, found fast success and hope that trend continues when they compete in the National High School Finals Rodeo, which gets underway Sunday and continues through the week, concluding on Saturday, in Gillette, Wyo.
“Me and Hayes get along pretty good,” Truchan said. “I think we trust each other a lot more than other teams do. … We take it as serious as we can.”
Southwest North Dakota as a whole will be well-represented on the national stage.
Qwint Stroh (saddle bronc riding), Matteah Dworshak (pole bending) and Annie Praus (cow cutting) will attend from Dickinson; Lacey Forsness (goat tying) will represent Gladstone; Jesse Olind (saddle bronc) and Sterling Lee (trap and rifle shooting) will arrive from Rhame; and Jayden Olson (bull riding) and Brendan Butterfield (tie down roping, cow cutting, team roping) will represent Taylor and Richardton, respectively.
Joining Truchan and LeMieux from the Killdeer area will be Lakken Bice (barrel racing and pole bending) and Karly Bang (cow cutting and breakaway roping).
“I think Killdeer has one of the best rodeo teams in North Dakota,” Truchan said. “Not many people can say they’re taking four kids from their hometown to the high school finals. That’s a really big thing.”
Bang was quick to agree.
“This is a big number from Killdeer,” she said. “We all kind of stepped up to the plate. It’s a very big accomplishment to make it down there.”
Truchan, the header, and LeMieux, the footer, took second in the team roping at the North Dakota High School Rodeo Finals in June in Bowman, and since then have been working to prepare for a bigger stage.
“We’ve been going to some team ropings around our area and tried to practice as much as we can,” said LeMieux, who added they made stops in Buffalo Gap and Grassy Butte.
For having just started roping together this year, the cowboys are already seeing the returns on their time together.
“We decided we lived close to each other and we’d get to practice a lot more than our partners before, so we teamed up,” LeMieux said. “We’ve connected well. We try to practice as much as we can, so that helps quite a bit.”
Truchan added: “It wasn’t too hard for me to pick up on (LeMieux) - knowing how he likes his steers, wants them fast, wants them slow. I do my best, and he does his best, and most times it works out pretty good.”
The rodeo season has been promising to this point, and Truchan added that he doesn’t see why it can’t continue.
“I think if we go get three steers down, we’ll be looking plenty fine,” he said. “Just get three clean ones down, and we’ll see what happens from there.”
The cowboys will have their first go in the team roping Monday morning but will have to wait until Friday evening for their second go.
“If we have a mistake or do something we don’t want to do, there’s time and there’s practice pens,” Truchan said. “I like the way that we drew.”
Bang, who will be a sophomore in the fall, is making her first appearance at the National High School Finals. Her turns in the breakaway roping will fall on Monday morning and Friday evening, and in the cow cutting, she’ll be competing in the Tuesday evening and Thursday morning performances.
In the breakaway roping, she will be without her normal horse, injured during her sister’s competition at the National Jr. High Finals Rodeo in Lebanon, Tenn., last month, but Bang is remaining optimistic.
“There’s not a whole lot you can do,” she said. “Just believe in yourself, believe in your horse and go out there to do what you know to do. … You can’t go about it any other way or you just cut yourself short before you start.”
In addition to having to get familiar with her new horse, named Stubby, Bang said she’ll have to quickly get accustomed to being one of the younger competitors in the field.
“The pressure is still there. It’s definitely stepped up a little bit more,” Bang said. “It gives you more time to think about what you’re doing since you have a month (between state finals and nationals). Since I’m younger, it feels bigger with the older kids here.”
Regardless, she is still very much looking forward to the experience.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “It’s a pretty cool thing to make it as a freshman, especially in two events. I’m staying humble, but it’s amazing.”
The cast of familiar faces from the Killdeer area will undoubtedly help ease any nerves, she said.
“It makes you feel a little more at home,” Bang said. “You know everybody in the state. It makes you feel more at home, and you can focus on your events a little bit more and feel more calm about it.”
Bice is making her fourth appearance at the high school finals, and she’ll compete Tuesday and Thursday in the barrels and Monday and Friday in the poles.
“I feel pretty confident. It’ll be a change (doing two events) because I’ll have to be more prepared for each day,” Bice said. “It’s four days for me now, not just two, but I think I can handle it.
“I like having time in between my events so I have time to practice and see what I need to work on. If something doesn’t go right in the first round, I have time to change it before the second round.”
Bice placed fourth in the barrels as a sophomore but came up empty in the poles as a freshman and junior. In her final season, she’s competing in both events and hopes to make the most of her last visit.
“My overall goal would be to make clean and consistent runs,” she said. “It would be an honor to compete in the short go (on Saturday), but as long as I leave the arena with a clean run, that’s all I really care about.”
LeMieux, like Bice, just graduated from Killdeer, and he will be making his second appearance at the National High School Finals after also going as a freshman, but Truchan, who will be a senior in the fall, is making his first appearance, so they both want to get the most out of it.
“I’ve been to the junior high rodeo two times, so I’ve been in the atmosphere a little bit,” Truchan said. “It’ll be new to me, but hopefully we can do something good there.”