After driving 1,000 miles across Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota, Lewis, Colorado, resident Isaiah Ethington stepped into a large arena in Huron, South Dakota, to compete in the National Junior High Finals Rodeo on June 24-30.
While the thought of competing against the world’s best young cowboys would make many eighth-graders nervous, Ethington remained poised throughout the chute dogging event and the tie-down roping event and earned two impressive finishes.
The best of those finishes came in the chute dogging event, where Ethington wrestled his calf to the ground in 13.41 seconds in Go-1, which was good enough to place him 78th overall. In Go-2, Ethington performed even better as he took down his calf in 4.82 seconds and finished 33rd overall.
Between the two performances, Ethington’s combined time was 18.23 seconds, which placed him 38th overall out of the 128 individuals who qualified and competed in the chute dogging event.
“It was fun,” said Ethington. “One thing about it up in (South Dakota), it is green. It rained a little bit, but it wasn’t bad. The first go in the chute dogging was a little long, but I was happy with my performance.”
Ethington’s other National Junior High Finals performance came in the tie-down roping event and began with disappointment as the young cowboy from Lewis failed to successfully rope his first calf. The eighth-grader rebounded well, however, and finished 56th overall in the Go-2 with a time of 18.7 seconds.
I missed my first calf. He was a runner, and he wasn’t the calf to have in that round,” Ethington said. “I had a good calf in the second go, and that run was good. I could’ve done a little better, but I was happy with how I did overall.”
With the National Junior High Finals rodeo now behind him, Ethington plans to continue honing his roping skills and steer wrestling skills while working at the Cortez Livestock Auction and caring for cows.
Clearly looking forward to competing at the high school level, Ethington said that he expects competition next season to be tough, but emphasized that he feels up to the task thanks to his experiences at the middle school level.
“I’ll remember all of the fun that I’ve had along the way and all of the memories that I’ve made (during middle school),” the young cowboy said. “I’ll remember how far I’ve come. I’m just going to keep practicing and I’ll be ready for high school (rodeos) next year.”