Cooper McClain, a Mancos Middle School student, will represent the Ute Mountain High School Rodeo team in Tennessee next week in one of the most intense events of the sport.
The 14-year-old will compete in bull riding at the National High School Rodeo Association’s Junior High Division finals, which will be held in Lebanon, Tennessee, on June 18-24. This is his second year going to the finals. He’ll be accompanied by his family and at least one other member of the Ute Mountain High School Rodeo Team, a student-led club of Montezuma County athletes.
Cooper said his experience at the finals last year was “fun, but scary,” and he hopes to be more prepared this time around.
“It was my first time ever doing something like that,” he said. “I didn’t do as good as I wanted, but hopefully I’ll do better this year.”
Bull riding runs in the McClain family. Cooper said he first got interested in the sport by watching his father, who learned it from his father. The family raises cattle on their farm, and Cooper said he sometimes practices on the bulls. His 7-year-old sister has rodeo aspirations as well, although he said she mostly practices barrel racing and goat tying.
Although he’s a little nervous about the competition, Cooper said bull riding is his favorite thing to do.
“It’d be great if I could keep doing it until my body says ‘no,’” he said.
Cooper will compete on Tuesday morning and Thursday night. His fellow Ute Mountain Rodeo member Riley Montoya will also compete in the junior high finals. Montezuma County high school students Breanna Maxwell and Bri Suckla will go to the senior high finals in July.