Members from this year's Nevada team feel they have a good shot to corral Utah from winning an unprecedented fifth consecutive title at the Silver State International Rodeo.
Even though Nevada trails Utah by 200 points, much can happen today at the Top 15 Finals at the Churchill County Fairgrounds. The finals conclude the five-day run of the Silver State International Rodeo for high school performers who finished fifth through tenth at their own state rodeos.
Fallon's high school rodeo director Jeff Goings likes what he sees with the Nevada team.
"They have a real good shot. This is one of the best teams we have had in a long time," said Goings.
What impresses Goings is how the Nevada team members are pushing and helping each other in every event to succeed at the SSIR.
"We're strong in every event, and we have a lot of depth, more than in previous years," Goings pointed out.
State high school president Dan Duncan of Lovelock agrees with Goings' assessment.
"This year our team is together more than ever before. This is the best group of kids I've seen," said Duncan. "This is a tough group of competitors, and they are very tight with their friendships."
From the directors to the cowboys and cowgirls, everyone knows how competitive the Utah team is.
After California won titles in 1998 and 1999, Utah took four straight titles culminating with a runaway in last year's SSIR. Nevada last won the title in 1997.
High school sophomores Chelsea Cooper of Elko and Michael McCarty of Alamo are new to state competition, but they have heard of Utah's championship teams. That fact, though, doesn't bother them.
"We have some tough breakaway ropers and cutters," Cooper said Wednesday, as she watched the morning performance from a shaded area in the bleachers.
McCarty, also 15, said Nevada has become a stronger team.
"I think the Nevada kids have been strong all year," McCarty said.
Yerington senior Lucas Vaughan said many events at the Nevada High School State Rodeo were decided by small margins. As a result, many contestants barely missed competing in their specialized events at nationals.
Vaughan, though, said his fellow team members are ready.
"This team has a lot of drive to win here," he said.
Two Fallon cowboys like Nevada's chances.
Sterling Lambert of Fallon, who won two events at the state high school rodeo, attended the SSIR to support fellow team member Casey Felton.
"They have such a big team to beat," said Lambert.
Felton, like Lambert, also feels Nevada will be strong in every event except the rough stock events of saddle bronc, bareback riding and bull riding.
Andrea Segura, one of SSIR's assistants in the arena, saw most of the state's high school rodeos. After assessing the strengths of the team, she feels the only weakness will be in rough stock.
Utah bull riders Brodie Smith and Josh Boone feel confident the Beehive State can repeat this year.
Smith, a senior from Pleasant Grove, said his state high school rodeo is competitive.
"Our team knows what it takes to win," he said from the bucking chute.
Boone said his teammates are competitive and want to hold on to the title.
Although he and his fellow bull riders don't consider Nevada a big rival, they do have words of encouragement if the Silver State contestants want to win an SSIR title.
"Try...just try," Boone advised.