Local rodeo athletes recall their experiences at the NHSFR
The 2020 National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) was originally set to be hosted in Lincoln, Nebraska, until county health officials stated that Lincoln could not host the event due to COVID-19. The National High School Rodeo Association (NHSRA) reached out to other cities and they landed at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma. Finals were held July 17-23.
Malcolm Heathershaw, of Wall, is no stranger to a finals rodeo. Though this was his first experience at the NHSFR, he has two Junior High National Finals Rodeos under his belt. During his seventh grade year, he travelled to Lebanon, Tennessee where he competed in steer saddle bronc riding and chute dogging. His eighth grade year was especially exciting, traveling to Huron, South Dakota to compete again in steer saddle bronc riding where he ended up splitting the fifth and sixth place in the world overall.
This year Heathershaw took 4th place in the final go-round and 4th place average winner in the world at the NHSFR.
Heathershaw grew up around saddle bronc, having watched family compete. “Many family members were a part of it, even past champions,” he said. “My dad rode broncs when he was younger, being a pretty good coach, I decided to give it a try,” he added. Heathershaw said he switched saddles just before the State Finals and said it really fits him better. “My first one was my dad’s old one,” he said.
While at the NHSFR, Heathershaw said for him the most exciting part was the Short-Go. “It was really high energy in the building, and I was really pumped to watch the kid before me and my friend, Teigan Clark, who made a heck of a ride and ended up winning the round,” he said.
Heathershaw said rodeo is a learning process young athletes will have to go through. “No one starts out really good and it takes time to get better,” he said. He also noted that young athletes don’t need to be upset if it doesn’t come right away. “Don’t give up if it is something you really want,” he added.
Tegun Spring, of Wall, got his first experience with the NHSFR this year, competing against some of the nation’s top high school rodeo competitors. Spring competed in the steer wrestling event, with the assistance of his mare, Lorraine. When asked what COVID restrictions were in place, Spring said that masks were required at the contestant meeting.
Steer wrestling runs in Spring’s blood, with his dad and uncles all being former steer wrestlers, so he thought he would give it a try. “I enjoyed it and stuck with it,” he said. Spring did a very good job for his first year at finals and by his results, didn’t seem to get rattled. During his first go-round run, Spring placed seventh with a score of 8.98. Spring said his second go-round run was the most exciting; placing fifth with a score of 5.2.
Spring has some advice for younger aspiring rodeo participants, “Hard work pays off and don’t doubt yourself.” Studies show that developing certain habits, like controlling emotions and choosing how to respond to situations, will help build the foundation for a strong mindset. A strong mindset can help you realize your struggle is only temporary and won’t derail your success(es). Of course, a mentor doesn’t hurt either. Spring has been under the guidance and direction of Clay Schaack, of Wall, a former Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) steer wrestler. “Clay has taught me a lot and got me where I am today,” said Spring.
Spring said he is so grateful that rodeos are even allowed to happen, especially the finals, during a time where many things are being cancelled. “I thank God for all of these great experiences, my horse and all the great people I have yet to meet and get to know along the way.”
Editor’s Note: Tessa Caspers of New Underwood also made the trip to National High School Finals Rodeo in barrel racing. Look for her experience in the future issue of the Pennington County Courant