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Saddle up

Despite losing key members from last year’s club team, the Crook County rodeo squad looks to be in the discussion for a state title

by: ANDREW MATHESON/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Christian Radabaugh, above at last year’s Crook County High School Rodeo at the Crook County Fairgrounds, will help lead the boys team this year in spring rodeo.

After a spring season last year that culminated in sending 16 members to state - the most since the team sent 18 in 2000 - the Crook County rodeo club took a bit of a hit during the offseason.
   In club rodeo, participants do not necessarily have to compete for the school that they go to. For instance, senior Ty Johnson, who lives in Redmond, has been competing on Crook County since her freshmen year.
   But this year, Crook County will be without bull rider Caleb Kensinger and last year's rookie of the year Traci Bailey, among others.
   Crook County rodeo adviser Clint Corey said Kensinger will compete as an independent, while Bailey, a Redmond resident who in 2006 qualified for state in five different events, will compete for the Central Oregon club team.
   And while the loss of those two competitors will hurt, Corey is confident in this year's team.
   "Our team is going to be really strong," Corey said. "We've got a deep list of girls that can compete really well, and I think we'll have a good boys team."
   After two rodeos in Moro and Condon in September of 2006 - two rodeos that marked the beginning of the 2006-07 rodeo season - the rodeo season will reconvene Friday in Roseburg at the Umpqua Valley High School Rodeo.
   Leading the way for Crook County will be Johnson, a three-time nationals rodeo qualifier, as well as Howie Mole, who last year won two rifle shooting contests with partner Kyle Tidwell of Gaston at nationals in Springfield, Ill. Johnson and Mole will be the lone club members for Crook County that have performed on the national stage.
   "She's just a real positive person," Corey said of Johnson. "She's a good cowgirl, shows good responsibility, and is a real inspiration to the rest of the kids. She takes her rodeo events real seriously and strives to be the best she can be."
   Said Corey of Mole, "He's just going to be real tough."
   Missing from this year's team will also be team roper Trevor Alves, who qualified for nationals with Johnson last year.
   While Corey said he's unsure of who Johnson will compete with in team roping, she did rope with Andrew Carleton at the second rodeo of the 2006-07 season in Condon. The two took second at Condon in a time of 8.86 seconds.
   Despite those losses, however, Corey said the team is gaining some cowboys and cowgirls as well. Bend resident Laura Fenimore will compete, while freshmen Sara Marcus of Sisters and Kaylee Patterson of Madras will look to take Crook County even further than they went last year.
   And incoming freshmen, including those from the Wrangler division - club rodeo for students in sixth- through eighth-grades - will be Hunter Hicks, Casey Loper, Lashae Brewer, as well as Marcus and Patterson.
   Hicks and Loper each competed at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Gallup, N.M., as eighth-graders last year, which will hopefully ease the transition to the high school level.
   "That was the whole point of the Wrangler division," Corey said, "just to get ready for high school, and I think we'll be more prepared with that now."
   So far, so good for Corey, as after two rodeos (Moro, Condon), Loper and Brewer already sit in the top six in the girls rookie of the year standings.
   Along with the talented youth coming in, cowboys and cowgirls such as Logan Blasdell, Bailey Corey, Morgan Dean, John Gamble, R.J. Kriege, Lacey and Wacey McBeth, Kade McLean, Amy Pearce, Christian Radabaugh, Abbie and Bill Simmons, Shayna Severance, Austin Stafford and Jeff Torrence will hopefully lead the club to a state title.
   "I'd like to see our girls win state again, for sure," Corey said. "As far as our boys team, I'd like to see them move up, and I think they can."
   Today, Friday, rodeo team members will begin their season-long quest to be in the top 20 in their respective events, which would qualify them for the season-ending state rodeo in Klamath Falls.
    For a trip to nationals, competitors need to sit in the top four in their events after the state competition is complete, while competitors who sit in fifth through 10th place earn a trip to the Silver State International Rodeo in Fallon, Nev.
   Said Corey, "We practiced all winter, and I think the kids are fresh, motivated, and ready go."