Loper, Westwood, Talburt all fare well, gain experience for future

by: ANDREW MATHESON/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Locals returned from New Mexico from the Wrangler Junior High Finals Rodeo. Pictured from left to right are, Hunter Hicks, Kyler Talburt, Casey Loper, and Cheyenne Westwood.

Even though his main event was chute dogging, it's safe to call Hunter Hicks the best at boys goat tying in Oregon.
   Hicks, 14, competed at the Wrangler Junior High Finals Rodeo in Gallup, NM last week, and walked away with fifth place overall in an event that he didn't technically qualify for.
   The incoming freshman at Crook County High School originally qualified for the WJHFR in chute dogging, an event he finished in second place this year in the Oregon High School Rodeo Association, Wrangler Division.
   He finished in sixth place in boy's goat tying, which did not qualify him for nationals, but after two competitors who finished in front of him did not show up in New Mexico, Hicks competed and finished fifth, better than anyone else in Oregon.
   "I think I did fairly well," Hicks said. "I was the highest-ranking Oregon cowboy (in goat tying). This was the event that I didn't expect to come in very good and it turned out to be my best event."
   Hicks scored an average time of 38.36 seconds in goat tying. The other Oregon competitor, Gus King of Dayville, who finished in second place in the state wrangler division, finished in sixth place at nationals with a time of 38.83 seconds. First place in goat tying went to Kyle Dickens of Loveland, Colo., with a time of 33.05.
   In chute dogging, Hicks finished 46th with a time of 23.42 seconds.
   "I drew a bad steer on my second (go)," Hicks said. "So I was almost a 14-second (time) on that."
   This was the first year that Oregon cowboys and cowgirls competed at the WJHFR, which is in only its second year. Team Oregon finished in 26th place out of 37 teams, with the boys finishing 27th overall and the girls placing 29th.
   Meanwhile, Casey Loper, 13, of Powell Butte, also competed in two competitions, taking 48th in girl's goat tying with a time of 27.86 seconds, and 80th in ribbon roping with a time of 22.9 seconds with partner Grant Garcia of Glide, Ore.
   "I had a malfunction with my horse on the first day and I ended up switching out," Loper said. "I was a little disappointed once I looked at the overall picture, but I didn't turn out all that bad really."
   Loper was definitely not disappointed with her performance on Thursday morning, as the incoming freshman at CCHS took second place in her go-round with a 9.54-second time in girl's goat tying.
   "That made me feel a lot better," she said. "I'm glad I got what I got."
   Cheyenne Westwood of Prineville finished her trip to the national stage in 78th place with an average time of 39.263 seconds in barrel racing.
   Westwood had a first go time of 17.419 seconds, placing her 12th for the go-round, and 45th overall after the first go.
   But after the incoming eighth-grader at Crook County Christian school hit a barrel on her second go, she dropped to 78th overall with a second go time of 21.844 seconds.
   Westwood, 13, felt she did a pretty good job at New Mexico, and with one more year of eligibility, she will be able to return next year with a year under her belt and an advantage over the other riders.
   The team roping event at the WJHFR was said to include great competition. Kyler Talburt, 14, of Prineville, finished second in the state wrangler division, but did not rope a time at nationals.
   On his first go, Talburt's partner, header Olivia Train of Myrtle Point, Ore., made an illegal rope around the neck and front leg. On the second go, Talburt had more bad luck.
   "I hit a fence and my rope went under but the steer went sideways," Talburt said. "But it was a lifetime experience. It was fun. Some kids never get the chance."
   Talburt, an incoming eighth-grader, has one more year of eligibility. He says he has an advantage next year, now that he knows how the finals work.
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