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One last ride

Senior Brandon Beers is set to compete for the final time at the high school level

by: TIM STUMM/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Beers poses with his brother's horse, Gabe, who he will be riding at the NHSFR.  Beers's own horse went down with a broken coffin bone earlier in the week.

Brandon Beers could feel his hands start to shake as he prepared to ride.
   He was teamed with a new partner and was about to compete on one of his largest stages yet.
   "The arena holds 15,000 and it was definitely sold out," Beers said, recalling his experience at the Reno Rodeo last month.
   "I can't even remember the run to tell you the truth. But once I got out there it was fine."
   Fine indeed.
   Competing against 128 of the top professional Team Roping teams in the world, Beers, 18, and partner Bobby Alexander, a childhood friend who lives in Redmond, placed fourth.
   "It was quite the confidence booster. I was on cloud nine," he said. "I ran to the truck right away to call my parents."
   Beers, a recent graduate of Crook County High School, has been competing in Pro Rodeos since February when he turned 18 and became eligible. He has been living a double life of sorts these past couple months competing also for the Crook County High School team. He placed first at the Oregon High School Rodeo Association state finals last month in Team Roping and third in Calf Roping and will be competing in both at the National High School Finals Rodeo in Gillette, Wyo., next week. It will be his last high school competition and his recent pro experience has done little to soothe the nerves.
   "High school rides are more nerve-wracking. I was more nervous this year at the state finals then I was at my first pro tournament," he said. "In high school I've worked four years to accomplish what I have."
   While they keep an affiliation with the high school, it is up to each member to practice on their own. To some, like Beers, this means participating in different rodeos, while for others it's just getting out and riding.
   There is no formal coach and so each rider is left to find their own instruction.
   For Beers, this means looking not too far.
   "I've been really fortunate. My dad's a world champion. He's been to the NFR 21 times."
   Beers also flies down to Texas a couple times a year to ride with a friend of his dad's named Tee Woman. Beers's dad, Mike, met Woman 30 years ago at his high school final and they've been friends ever since. Like Mike, Woman is still competing on the pro circuit after two decades, part of a small fraternity of riders who have been able to adapt to the changing times and remain successful.
   "[Tee Woman] has been a mentor since I was little. He's changed with the times. Just like any other sport, things start to change after 25 years and there's a handful of older guys who have been able to adapt," Beers said.
   Beers is also blessed with a practice arena for a front yard complete with more than a dozen horses.
   "We ride just about everyday. It's just like anything. You've got to keep your horses in shape," he said.
   Despite the preparation, Beers faced a major setback earlier this week when his top horse went down with a broken coffin bone.
   "It's like breaking a major bone in your foot as a runner. You can still perform but she'd be in so much pain it wouldn't be worth it," he explained.
   Beers raised the horse himself and is disappointed he won't be able to ride her in the finals. He is keeping his head up though and will ride his brother's horse, Gabe, instead.
   "He's as good as there is," he said. "It might even put me in a better situation."
   Beers will continue his education this fall at the University of Texas on a full rodeo scholarship. He received offers from several schools, including the University of Montana and Cal-Poly, but felt Texas was the best fit.
   "They have a lot of what I want to do. They have an outstanding business program in agriculture," he said.
   Beers will participate on the rodeo team but is not certain where he will go from there.
   For the meantime, he has other plans.
   "I want to finish summer as a kid," he said. "Go to the lake, do fun things. I'll have the rest of my life to go to rodeos."