Stettler County’s five finest junior high school rodeo athletes have taken the sport by storm these past few months on the provincial, national and international stage
The western way of life has extended to a new generation of cowboys and cowgirls as David Butterwick and Denim Ross of Botha, as well as Tess Thurston, Coy Skocdopole, and Landon Warren of Big Valley showed off their talents during the World National Junior and Senior High School Rodeo Finals in Huron, South Dakota from June 25 to July 1.
The five-day event hosted junior and senior high student-athletes from all over the world including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Australia to name a few.
In order to qualify for Huron, they must make one of the top four spots in the province. All three Big Valley School students who participate in school rodeo qualified after provincial finals. Thurston won first for Girls Goat Tying, Skocdopole qualified for World Nationals for placing top four in Team Roping, and Warren won first in Tie Down Roping.
For Nationals, each event has at least 180 students with approximately 1,200 in the entire rodeo. Skocdopole and his partner, Clay McNichol of Okotoks, placed second on the world stage for their team roping skills, becoming reserve world junior champions.
Thurston made it to the top 20 short round, placing 10th in Girls Goat Tying as well as Warren making top 20 for Tie Down Roping.
Canadian High School Junior Finals were held in Merritt, B.C, from July 27 to July 29. Thurston made reserve champion goat tier for all of Canada at the event and made champion for ribbon roping alongside Denim Ross.
Champion boy goat tier went to Warren while Skocdopole and McNichol made reserve champions for team roping. David Butterwick made top 10 in the boys shoot dogging in Huron and won the final short go.
Ross and partner Levi Schmidt of Barrhead have won reserve at provincial finals, junior team roping champions, and won the national title at Canadian finals.
Ross won a total of 19 belt buckles this season alone for his accomplishments in the arena including becoming a Provincial ribbon roping champion with Charlee Resch of Stettler and break away champion plus high point, Nationals World champion team roper alongside Levi Schmidt, and Canadian shoot dogging, ribbon roping and team roping champion.
Ross shows a level of intelligence when it comes to livestock. His parents run a stock contracting company that provides cattle for rodeo events so he has the opportunity to see how the cattle operate.
“He has had one heck of a year and he deserves it. He works so hard at it,” said Linda Thruston, mother of Tess Thurston.
Mother Christine Ross also noted Ross’s natural ability to understand cattle and their patterns. “He could tell you what number was in the ear tag of a calf that he roped four years ago so that is a real asset in the rodeo business because knowing your livestock that your competing on is a huge advantage. He eats, sleeps, breathes roping. That is all there is in his world,” she said.
Stettler County boasts a strong agricultural presence within the community as well as the province.
“This is one of the strongest showings that Team Alberta has put together in a few years,” said Linda Thurston. “Last year we had a national champion from Innisfail who won the Junior Goat Tying Championship. Her name is Kyla Kelly. Kyla and Denim are good friends so for Denim to follow up behind Kyla says a lot about the kids that Alberta sends down to something like that on the world stage.”
The rodeo season will be starting up in a matter of weeks as the Stettler Alberta High School Rodeo will take place from Aug. 24 to Aug. 26. This rodeo marks the beginning of a whole new year for these young athletes.