In the movies, the famed “Field of Dreams” was carved out of an Iowa cornfield.
Next week, four Tooele County youngsters will travel to the Hawkeye State, hoping the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in Des Moines represents the culmination of their own dreams.
Beau Rees and Chloe Kump, both eighth-graders at Clarke N. Johnsen Junior High School, and sixth-grader Birklee Jones and eighth-grader Braydin Evans from Grantsville Junior High School each earned the right to represent Utah at the national finals, set to take place from June 21-27.
“I was happy — really, really, really happy,” said Jones, who will be competing with her cousin, Evans, in the ribbon roping competition. “We had to practice a lot [to advance]. It will be harder [at nationals] because there will be lots more people competing and everybody’s going to be on their best game.”
Ribbon roping is a mixed-gender event that involves a roper and a runner. The roper ties up the calf, while the runner gets the ribbon that is tied around the calf’s tail and runs to the finish line, located 30 feet from the roping chute. Evans and Jones won the state championship in the event, and are thrilled to be representing Utah at the NJHFR.
“At the state finals when we won the saddle, it was her first saddle,” Evans said.
Evans, who was the national champion in breakaway roping in 2014, is looking forward to returning to the NJHFR. He also will compete in chute dogging, tie-down roping and team roping, giving him a chance to compete for top all-around cowboy honors.
“I’m excited to be going back,” he said. “My goal this year was to have a chance in the all-around. Usually, people have to have a couple events to do anything in the all-around, and the kid who won it last year was in every event.
“I think there’s less pressure when you have more events to take the pressure out on. It’s not all focused on one event. There’s always another chance.”
Evans was the state champion this year in chute dogging, despite it being his first year in the event. Chute dogging is similar to steer wrestling, with the exception being that instead of being on horseback, the cowboy begins the event in the chute with the steer. The cowboy must wrestle the steer to the ground in as quick a time as possible.
Evans also claimed the state title for the second straight year in team roping with teammate Kash Cattoor, who edged him for the tie-down roping title at the state finals.
“In the tie-down roping, I don’t know what the calves are going to be like,” Evans said. “My horse doesn’t necessarily like fast calves, so we’ll see how that goes.”
Rees will compete in team roping after finishing second in the state finals. However, Rees is having to adjust to a new teammate, as his state teammate, Gus Christensen, is unable to make the trip. Instead, Rees will be teamed with Hagen Peterson, a Delta resident who finished fifth at state and recently spent a few days practicing with Rees.
“It should be really good,” said Rees, who will be the header while Peterson will serve as the heeler.
Rees is bracing himself for the long drive to the Midwest, which likely will take parts of two days. However, the eighth-grader also is taking a no-nonsense approach to the trip.
“If you’re leaving, you’re going,” Rees said. “You aren’t stopping to goof around.”
Kump will compete in pole bending at the the national finals after finishing second in the event at state. Pole bending requires the cowgirl and her horse to weave their way through a set of six poles in as fast a time as possible.
“I just kept up with being consistent and knowing what I had to do to get the right points,” Kump said. “If you do it so much, you just think, ‘oh, I want to go faster,’ and then it doesn’t feel fast enough anymore.”
The National Junior High Finals Rodeo, in its 11th year, features competitors from 42 states, as well as Canada and Australia. More than $75,000 in prize money and $100,000 in college scholarships will be awarded.
Results of the rodeo will be available online at NHSRA.org. Live broadcasts of each performance will be online at NHSRATV.com, with a single performance at 6 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on June 21 and performances at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. MST on June 22-27.