While cowboys and cowgirls are supposedly dying out, the sport is still alive among the youth of southwestern North Dakota, as three members of the Dickinson Rodeo Club will travel to Huron, S.D., to compete in the National Junior High Finals Rodeo from Sunday, June 23, to Saturday, June 29.
Arena Delorme of South Heart, Weston Klatt of Dickinson and Zack Berger of Belfield will all make their first trip to the biggest possible stage for riders of their age.
“Basically, what my mom told me is that, we’re going in, it’s our first year at nationals, we don’t have any expectations,” Klatt said. “I don’t feel as much pressure as when I first made it.”
The performance will be their final one at the junior high level. The three will be freshmen next year and compete in high school rodeos. Aside from the state finals in Bismarck in May, the trio hasn’t seen an arena as large as the one they’ll encounter in Huron.
“I’m nervous for all the people that are gonna be watching us,” Delorme said.
“You don’t want to screw up,” Berger added.
Delorme and Berger will compete in breakaway roping, while Klatt will be joined by Weston LaPierre of Killdeer in team roping. Klatt finished third overall to qualify in goat tying, but a leg injury will likely prevent him from competing in the event at nationals. His heading horse is named Camaro and is 21 years old.
With a fourth-place finish at the North Dakota Junior High State Finals Rodeo in Bismarck, Klatt and LaPierre sealed the fourth and final qualifying spot in team roping.
The pair narrowly edged out Delorme and header Berger, who finished fifth overall.
“I think team roping is my strongest event, but breakaway is my next one,” Delorme said.
Delorme took the No. 4 spot in breakaway roping, finishing 11th in the average at the state finals. She will ride her 20-year-old horse named Hammer.
Meanwhile, Berger earned the No. 3 spot in boys breakaway roping, taking 15th at state. He will ride his bay roan horse, Brick, down in South Dakota.
“Breakaway I’d say I’m stronger at than goat (tying) because I’m more experienced at roping than tying,” Berger said.
While this will be their first appearance at the national level, Delorme, Berger and Klatt are no strangers to the sport and have been riding since they were little.
“I honestly don’t know (when I started rodeo),” Berger said. ‘“Probably, since I could walk.”
Delorme said she was born into it, as both her parents as well as her older siblings all compete in rodeos.
Berger was influenced by his family as well.
“When I was little, I saw my dad and Grandpa doing it and I loved watching them do it, and I said, ‘I want to do that,’” he said.
Klatt said he started playing baseball, but after the third grade, lost interest and started riding.
Years later, the group is hoping the National Junior High Finals Rodeo will help in the transition to high school rodeo.
“If you beat kind of the better people then you know man, I did really good,” Berger said.
Perhaps, Delorme, Berger or Klatt will continue after high school, keeping the tradition of cowboys and cowgirls alive in the West.
Other local cowboys and cowgirls competing at the NJHFR include Kolby Sperry from Beach, who will compete tie-down roping and ribbon roping. MaKlain Kleeman of Killdeer will ride in barrel racing, while Saylor Wilson of Bowman will be goat tying. Also from Bowman, Gracie Blaser will compete in pole bending.
North Dakota National Jr. High Rodeo Division Team
Steers bareback: 1, Cole Gerhardt, Mandan. 2, Coy Hepper, Keene. 3, Tyler Villarreal, Ryder. 4, Carson Hildre, Velva.
Boys breakaway: 1, Gerhardt. 2, Hadly Erickson, Almont. 3, Zack Berger, Belfield. 4, Trey Bohmbach, Stanley.
Girls breakaway: 1, Danielle Fladeland, Minot. 1, Carlee Roshau, Bismarck. 3, Sheridan Bubel, Center. 4, Arena Delorme, South Heart.
Tie-down roping: 1, Layton Sailer, Hazen. 2, Ryan Inglis, Regan. 3, Tel Sorenson, Watford City. 4, Kolby Sperry, Beach.
Barrel racing: 1, MaKlain Kleeman, Killdeer. 2, Haley Buck, Minot. 3, Corey Jo Nehring, Center. 4, Kirra Kvamme, Carrington.
Chute dogging: 1, Kenneth Hagen, Mandan. 2, Riggs Rotenberger, Ludlow. 3, Sailer. 4, AJ Heins, New Salem.
Steers saddle bronc: 1, Kaulder Kvamme, Mandan. 2, Cayden Kling. 3, Hunter Kluver. 4, Gerhardt.
Ribbon roping: 1, Sperry/ Kenzie Homelvig. 2, Gerhardt/ Kayla Bauer. 3, Hadly Erickson/ Carlee Roshau. 4, Sorenson/ Fladeland.
Girls goat tying: 1, Fladeland. 2, Saylor Wilson, Bowman. 3, Kira Kvamme, Carrington. 4, Homelvig.
Boys goat tying: 1, Gerhardt. 2, Rotenberger. 3, Weston Klatt, Dickinson. 4, Wyatt Schwab, Linton.
Team roping: 1, Inglis/ Sailer. 2, Bohmbach/ Hayden Hutchinson. 3, Trevor Sorge/ Gerhardt. 4, Klatt/ Weston LaPierre.
Pole bending: 1, Megan Larson, Hoople. 2, Sofie Huff, Donnybrook. 3, Homelvig. 4, Gracie Blaser, Bowman.
Bull riding: 1, Brody Nelson, Minot. 2, Gerhardt. 3, Villareal. 4, Eli Leppell, Keene.
Rifle shoot: 1, Casey Voigt. 2, Garrett Nehl. 3, Stran Fladeland. 4, Kari Hepper.