Missing last Saturday’s graduation at Ignacio High School couldn’t be avoided for Dustin Sanchez.
While entered in the 2019 Colorado State High School Rodeo Association Finals at the Moffat County Fairgrounds in Craig, the IHS senior not only took part in a special “rodeo graduation” Sunday afternoon but the next day took the top prize in his rough-stock specialty of bull riding, and he earned a place in this summer’s nationals, too.
After posting no score in the first go-round, Sanchez logged an 82-point ride in the second, which stood as the competition’s best overall effort. In the deciding short go, he then received a 70 from the judges, good enough for second place in the go and good enough to earn first in the average with 152 points on two head.
“I was just sitting on that bull, and he sat against the latch when I called for him,” Sanchez said Thursday, recalling his peak performance which, coming out of the chute, gave no hint it would be such a thing. “He kind of stalled out before I could get him to go out. It felt like I was out of whack the whole time. But I watched my video; I was riding him just how I should have.”
Cortez-area entrant Cooper McClain, who won the short go with a 72, took second with 143/2 figures.
Having placed second by one point, 74-73, to Walsenburg’s Christopher McKenna on May 11-12 up in Greeley’s Island Grove Regional Park on Day 1 of the last stop before state, Sanchez’s 29 total points in Craig upped his 2018-19 count to a championship-winning 107, while McClain’s 28-point take boosted his to 64½. Hayden’s Keenan Hayes gained 16 points at the MCFG and increased his year-end haul to a third-place 46.
“You know, I was pretty speechless when I won it,” said Sanchez, referring to the CSHSRA State Championship. “I’d worked so hard for stuff and nothing’s panned out the way I wanted it to, so I was like, ‘Is this even happening to me?’”
The 2019 National High School Finals Rodeo is set for July 14-20 at the Sweetwater Events Complex in Rock Springs, Wyoming.