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Locals rope in rodeo wins

Adia Waldburger, of the Record staff
Senior Natasha Thompson of the South Summit High School Rodeo Club attacks the barrels in the final round of the Utah High School Rodeo Championships at the Wasatch County Fairgrounds on Saturday.
20060613__0Sports

It wasn’t the wining week South Summit senior Natasha Thompson had envisioned at the Utah High School Rodeo Championships at the Wasatch Country Fairgrounds, but it was good enough, and that’s all she needed to move on to the National High School Rodeo in Springfield, Ill., next month.

Thompson, an accomplished and experienced cowgirl, came into the competition favored to win in both barrels and pole bending. Unfortunately, it was a week full of tough conditions. With no help from the mix of rainy and dry weather, she also struggled in her two events. In barrel racing, she hit the barrel on her first go, or she would have won the round. In the second, it was muddy and she fell on the first barrel. Luckily, she saved her best for last, with a nearly flawless performance in Saturday’s final round. In pole bending, she was sitting in second after the first round, but hit a pole in the second. On Saturday, she hit another pole to knock her out of contention for a berth at nationals.

"When you have trouble, it gets you out of rhythm," Thompson said. "It’s just hard, because you keep hitting them and you go down."

Regardless of her tough luck, Thompson, who finished 12th in barrels at the national finals last year, is grateful to be heading back for one last time.

"I’m excited," Thompson said. "I’m not going to be a poor loser. Stuff happens. Of course I wanted to win the saddle, but you understand that the winner deserves it. She worked just as hard."

South Summit Rodeo Club secretary Charisty Atkinson said that the state finals are always tough, because conditions may be questionable and one bad day can mess up a year’s worth of wins.

"That’s what’s hard," Thompson added. "You’ve worked for so long and you go two times and it can be ruined, so it’s tough."

Thompson will be joined by two other members of the South Summit Rodeo Club in Illinois — Dillon Hoffman and Harley Atkinson. Hoffman, an Evanston, Wyo. teen that trains with the South Summit squad, won the first-place saddle in team roping with Rhett Anderson from the South Sevier Club. The two managed to survive muddy conditions and a horse that slipped to hold on for the state title in the final round.

"We had been getting first and second all year round," Hoffman said. "So we figured we’d come back to the short go [finals]."

The win gives the duo their first invitation ever to the national competition.

Atkinson, a sophomore at South Summit High School, will be making his second trip to nationals after finishing third in barebacks. He trailed Caleb Bennett of the Spikers Club by half a point going into the final round, unable to stay on his horse until the eight-second buzzer sounded.

"I’m happy I made it to nationals," Atkinson said. "I’ve been riding pretty good."

The young cowboy didn’t place well in his first year at the national rodeo, and is looking forward to entering the competition with experience.

"Mentally, I feel a lot better going into it after a year. I know what to expect," Atkinson said.

Thompson, the most experienced of the three, says the best way to go into the national event is with confidence. If anything, her tough week in Heber has only made her more determined.

"Maybe things happen for a reason to prepare me," Thompson said.

For the most part, the three will maintain their same training schedule. Atkinson plans to ride a variety of horses in the interim to prepare for whatever unfamiliar horses he draws at nationals.

Another South Summit finalist, Rowdy Thompson, finished 10th in calf roping and qualified for the Silver State International Rodeo in Nevada.

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