Looking more like seasoned pros than high school competitors, several members of the Ute Mountain Rodeo Team wrapped up successful seasons at the Colorado State High School Rodeo Finals, held in Lamar on June 5-9. By the end of the five-day event, one team member was crowned state champion in two events, three team members won reserve state championships and other team members placed well. For the competitors involved, the rodeo served as proof that hard work does pay off. Carrying more than just golden belt buckles, the team left the rodeo with memories that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.
Highlighting the rodeo for the Ute Mountain Rodeo Team, home-schooled junior Jake Cruzan won the Colorado State Championship in the boys’ cutting event.
Cruzan placed first in the first go, first in the second go, first in the short go and first in the average. As a result, Cruzan earned 40 points and concluded the year as the Colorado State Champion.
“The cutting went very well,” said a clearly pleased Cruzan. “I have a good horse. He is little to ride, but he works every time.”
Apparently, one state title was not enough for Cruzan, who teamed up with Taten Koenig, a roper from the Alamosa area, to add a team roping state championship to his collection. Although Cruzan and Koenig started slow, finishing the first and second go in eighth place, the team rallied to place second in the short go with a time of 8.630 seconds. As a result, the team finished second in the average, picked up 24 points, and won the Colorado State Championship by a four-point margin.
“Taten and I rope together quite a bit. He’s a great kid,” said Cruzan. “This was his third state championship and I enjoyed roping with him.”
Speaking about the experience of winning two state championships, Cruzan stated, “I have been waiting to win state for a long time. I have been in rodeos since I was in seventh grade and I’ve never really done any good. This year was different and I’m very pleased.”
Also turning in an impressive performance was Dolores High School junior Tanner Lockhart. Competing in the saddle bronc event, Lockhart placed second in the first go with a score of 66, was bucked off after 7.6 seconds in the second go and scored 63 points in the short go. As a result of his rides, Lockhart picked up 9 points in the average and was crowned Colorado Reserve State Champion.
“I came into the rodeo with a half-point lead on the guy who ended up winning,” said Lockhart. “The first round went alright. The second round I was fixing to win [the event] and I was bucked off. That took me out of contention a bit.”
Lockhart’s reserve state championship was his second straight, and he is hoping to win the event next year. “Most of my competition has graduated,” said Lockhart. I plan on winning next year.”
Leading the way for the female members of the Ute Mountain Rodeo Team, home-schooled junior Emma Reim performed well in the girls’ cutting event. Reim placed third in the first go, second in the second go and second in the short go. Finishing second in the average, Reim concluded her season as Colorado reserve state champion.
“Cutting is a difficult event because you are not able to pick up your hand to help your horse,” said Reim. “You have to trust your horse a lot, which is hard because (the horse) does not understand what you are saying.”
Reim said, “I was really happy with my performance and my horse. I wasn’t expecting him to do very well and we ended up pulling it together.”
Dolores High School senior Dax Koskie also enjoyed a solid rodeo. Competing in bareback riding, Koskie scored 58 points in the second go, which was good enough to place him second in average. Koskie picked up 18 points and concluded the year as the Colorado reserve state champion.
“They call bareback riding the most demanding sport. You pretty much tie your hand in a suitcase handle and try to hang on for eight seconds,” said Koskie. “I was pleased with my performance. I accomplished a lot of things that I wanted to.”
Other competitors finishing in the top 15 for the Ute Mountain Rodeo Team were Tenai Lansing and Tommy Thompson in the team roping event. The duo competed hard throughout the year and ended their season in 12th place.
For the entire Ute Mountain Rodeo Team, success over the course of the season was especially gratifying in light of the hard work and preparation that took place during the previous year.
“Cutters and team ropers practice all the time,” said Cruzan. It’s very important to have your horses tuned up and ready to go.”
For bronc riders, it is especially important to stay in shape and work out,” added Koskie. “Otherwise, you will hurt yourself.”
Team members also expressed pride in being able to balance the demands of competing in rodeo with the demands of school. “A lot of people do not understand that rodeo is tough because you are not just taking care of yourself. You are also taking care of your animals,” explained Cruzan.
“It can be hard to keep up with school,” added Reim. “A lot of times we are gone on Thursdays and Fridays and we have to find a way to catch up the next week.”
Team members were quick to give thanks to individuals who contributed to their successful season.
“I’d like to thank the Reim family for bringing me to all the rodeos,” said Koski.
“I’d also like to thank the team for supporting me.
“I’d like to thank my parents, my little brother, and our sponsors,” added Cruzan. “A lot of people don’t really think about sponsors, but people who sponsor the kids really help out a lot.”
Lockhart was eager to thank his parents, along with cowboys Dale Triplett and Jeff Hummel.
“I go and practice with Dale a lot,” said Lockhart. “He rides bucking horses on the Mountain State Circuit and he has taught me a lot.”
From Reim, thanks went to both her family and a higher power.
“I would like to thank God for blessing us with all of this,” said Reim. I would also like to thank my parents and my grandpa, who holds down the fort when we are gone.”