Nationals on the line for rodeo standouts
She is always a threat.
But for Washoe cowgirl and Fallon resident Sydney Howard, she finds a way to psyche herself out. The results show too since the recent Churchill County High School grad has missed several opportunities to qualify for the National High School Finals Rodeo.
This year, though, is different.
Howard’s mental game has undergone a transformation, and she is ready to put her full talents on display this weekend at the Nevada State High School Finals Rodeo in Ely.
“I am just hoping to have a solid state finals this year,” Howard said. “I want to tie off the goats and cutoff the calves and be solid.”
A mainstay atop the leaderboard throughout her career in goat tying and breakaway roping, Howard is aiming her lasso toward Wyoming and a double-qualification for nationals in both events, a feat she has never done before.
She qualified for goat tying last year and breakaway roping her four years ago. In between, though, has been some disappointment.
Nevertheless, Howard has been a power this season thanks to calming her mind. She admitted to consistently getting inside her own head in the past, but a conversation with her parents unearthed the problem.
With renewed focus and determination, she sits in second place in breakaway roping with 111.5 points and is third in goat tying with 107 (all point totals are unofficial). At state, though, points are worth double and a faulty run or two can be the difference between nationals and a trip to the Silver State International Rodeo.
“The mental challenges for me, are I absolutely get in my own head,” Howard said. “That’s my biggest problem and has always been. It’s one thing I’ve really worked on this year, to try to stay out of my own way and let things happen.”
Yet another challenge facing Howard, and every other cowboy and cowgirl, is squaring off against an animal. Goats and calves are “squirrely” and have a tendency to make life difficult on the athletes.
But for a season veteran such as Howard, she knows consistency is just as valuable as speed.
“You just have to really think about keeping your goat down,” she added. “Goats and breakaway are my two favorite events, and basically what I put all my time into. Practice makes perfect.”
In addition to Howard, the Fallon rodeo club sports a trio of cowboys with their sights set on nationals as well.
Mackay Spyrow and team roping partner Jordan Taylor of Moapa Valley sit in second place with 101. Although the distance between the partners makes training an obstacle, the Fallon sophomore said the chemistry between the two makes roping easier.
“My mindset is just to go in and catch all my steers,” Spyrow said. “Hopefully, we make three good runs that bump us up to No. 1 and we make nationals.”
The duo has been solid all season with numerous top four finishes, although Spyrow’s second event, tiedown roping, is a work in progress.
This is the first year Spyrow has competed in tiedown roping and he sits in 21st place with eight points.
“Granted it is only my first year, but I had higher expectations for myself,” Spyrow said. “There’s always next year.”
In addition to Spyrow, Billy Quillan has been solid in bull riding as he sits in third with 45 points. He is also 20th in team roping with brother Levi (50 points) and is 14th in tiedown (33).
Blain Jensen and partner Jes Tews also shoot to qualify for nationals in team roping as the duo sits in sixth with 80 points. Jensen is also 20th in tiedown with 11 points, while Tews is 17th (25).
Sam Goings, meanwhile, sits in 24th place with team roping partner Trase Bell of Humboldt County with 44 points. Goings is also 16th in tiedown with 28.
Fallon cowboys and brothers Caleb and Cord Hendrix, who rodeo as independents, are in contention in several events as well.
As a team roping duo, Cord and Caleb Hendrix are battling each other for the top spot in cutting. Cord Hendrix leads his brother, 162.5-149-5. They are also in the top 15 as team roping partners with 66 points.
Cord Hendrix is tied fourth in bull riding (38) and 11th in tiedown (64), while Caleb Hendrix is 18th with 23.
Jessica Gomes, meanwhile, was the first local cowgirl to qualify for nationals as she made the top four in girls cutting several weeks ago.