There aren’t many in the area who can lay claim to the title of Canadian High School Rodeo Finals champion.
Ryan Jasper did it in bull riding in 2011 and, years back, brothers Ian Pare (bareback riding, 1999) and Rease Pare (steer wrestling, 2003), Keely Durrell (breakaway roping, 2003) and Willee Twan (team roping, 1998) achieved the same fate.
This year, however, 150 Mile House’s Chad Braaten earned the accolade at the event, hosted in Nanton, Alta. from July 25-27. And, it came in what he called possibly his most unexpected event — boys’ cutting.
“I hadn’t really expected to do that well, especially in the boys’ cutting,” Braaten said. “If I thought I was going to do well in anything it would have been team roping, which ended up being my worst.”
Braaten, a 2013 Williams Lake secondary graduate, along with Matt Armes, a 2013 Columneetza secondary graduate, have both spent the majority of their summers competing at the biggest and most prestigious high school rodeos.
Both Braaten and Armes earned their spots at the Canadian High School Rodeo Finals and the National High School Rodeo Finals in Rock Springs, WY., July 14-21 through posting consistently strong performances throughout their high school rodeo season.
“We compete all season during the high school schedule,” Armes explained. “We start in September and finish in June. Every rodeo is worth points and the top 12 with the most points go to the B.C. finals, then the top four from there go to nationals and then the top six go to Canadians.”
Armes qualified for Canadians and nationals in steer wrestling and bronc riding. He finished first in the regular season in bronc riding and sixth in steer wrestling; however, because two people weren’t going Armes was rolled up to fourth.
Braaten, meanwhile, finished his rodeo season first in boys’ cutting, seventh in calf roping and sixth in team roping. Likewise, because some qualifiers weren’t attending, Braaten was rolled up into a qualifying position.
At nationals, joining 1,800 other competitors, neither cowboy was happy with their performance.
Armes, who was coming off a dislocated shoulder he sustained at the B.C. finals in June in Quesnel, failed to hang on to either of his two broncs and caught neither of his two steers.
“My first steer I rode by,” Armes said. “My second steer I got down but I wasn’t in the right position, so when he stopped I just flipped over his head.”
Likewise, Braaten missed his calf in the first round which put him out of the competition and was then forced out of the boys’ cutting because his horse was injured, and didn’t place in the top-20 overall in team roping.
“Winning it would have been over and above, but I hoped to make short-go and finish in the top 20,” Braaten said. “It didn’t happen, but oh well.”
Both cowboys, however, made up for it a week later in Nanton at Canadians.
To go along with Braaten’s first-place finish in boys’ cutting, he also earned a fifth-place overall finish in calf roping.
Cutting, he explained, is an event where both the horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate cows from a herd.
“Basically there’s a pen of about 30 cows,” he said. “You go in and you have four helpers and they tell you which cows are good to pick. You cut a cow out, hold it there for 20 or 30 seconds, then you get off it and go get another one. You gain marks if you’re really flashy and have some really nice moves on your horse.”
Braaten said he plans to take a year off rodeo and focus on his education and a science degree at Williams Lake’s Thompson Rivers University campus, prior to working toward becoming a pharmacist.
“I’ll amateur rodeo in the summer with my brother [Cody], and in my second year, I’m not 100 per cent sure, but I’d like to go to Alberta and college rodeo.”
Armes, meanwhile, received an offer he couldn’t pass up while the duo were competing in Rock Springs, WY. at nationals.
“Basically I got offered a pretty sweet college deal down to Oklahoma Panhandle State University, almost a full ride,” Armes said. “I’m going down there to take my pre-vet and that’s the focus but I’ve got to compete to the best of my ability.
“They’ve got lots of good coaches and practicing down there so my riding will definitely improve. But it’s happening pretty quick here — I leave Saturday.”
Both Braaten and Armes added they’d like to thank their numerous sponsors in the community, who helped the pair afford travel costs throughout the season.
Armes said he’d also like to thank his personal sponsor, Soda Creek Sweet Corn, and Braaten said he’d like to send out a special thanks to Kamloops’ Ken and June Hartley who leant him their horse when his got injured at Canadians.
“I wouldn’t have got there without them,” Braaten said.