Mike Terry, Deseret News
HEBER CITY — A couple of cowgirls from northern Utah found a great way to celebrate their birthdays at the Utah High School Rodeo Association State Finals.
McKale Hadley, a member of the Ogden-based Spikers Rodeo Team, turned 19 years old on Saturday, and she commemorated that special occasion by winning Saturday's barrel racing championship short go-round with a slick time of 16.381 seconds.
Thanks to Saturday's strong showing, Hadley also wound up winning the average over the annual four-day rodeo and, by virtue of her first-place performance in the season points race — she tied for the top spot with Kelsie Keller of Sanpete — earned herself a trip to the National High School Finals Rodeo in July at Gillette, Wyo.
"I can handle it being a tie," Hadley, a recent Fremont High School graduate, said of sharing the season points prize with Keller. "This is a good way to celebrate my birthday.
"I rode Jay (a 10-year-old gelding that's one of her two horses) in all three rounds today and all three rounds up here. It was a gut feeling to ride Jay. I just decided to stick with one horse, and he was consistent.
"In the draw, I wanted to have first out," said Hadley, who posted her top time as the first contestant in Saturday's go-round and then watched as the other girls tried to beat her but couldn't do it. "That's what I really wanted. I was excited to run first and set the pace.
Paige Hadlock, Hadley's Spikers teammate, will turn 18 years old on Monday, and she rang in that big day in her life by capturing the girls cutting event. To make it an even sweeter birthday tomorrow, her twin brother, Dax — who's just a minute older that Paige — made it a dominating double-dip for the Hadlock duo by claiming the boys cutting crown for the third time in his prep rodeo career. Both of them posted the top score in all three go-rounds for a clean sweep of the cutting competition. They'll be taking a trip to Wyoming for nationals next month, too.
Paige Hadlock, who finished second in the state in the cutting event last year and followed that up with a second-place showing at the National Finals Rodeo, was delighted to nail down the state title this time around.
"It feels good to win it as a senior," said Hadlock, who like Hadley is a recent graduate of Fremont High. "I've ridden different horses every year, and my dad, Lawson, trains cutting horses. We get on horses that need showing time, and my dad usually gives me about two horses to pick from."
She certainly picked a winner this week in Everyone's Desire, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Dave Whitaker.
"I knew if I could win the first round, that would settle my nerves and I had the horsepower to win it all," Paige Hadlock said. "Every horse is different, and Dax rode the same horse, but I get thrown around."
The Spikers' Hadley and Hadlock weren't the only ones who had a big day on Saturday.
Joe Frost, the Uintah Basin cowboy who was the state's all-around champion a year ago and went on the win the bull riding title at the national finals, had a mighty strong showing again this time around the chutes.
Frost won Saturday's bareback riding go-round with a score of 78, giving him the season points title as well. He also placed third in Saturday's steer wrestling event with a fine time of 5.029 seconds, moving him up into a tie for fifth place in the season-long standings. And, for good measure, the recent Union High School graduate grabbed the top prize in Saturday's bull riding competition with a superb score of 81, propelling him into second place in the overall season points chase.
Frost finished third in this year's all-around cowboy competition — not bad for a young man who missed half the season after having shoulder surgery last fall.
Frost's Uintah Basin teammate, Chet Boren, was the boys' all-around champion with 578.5 points. The girls' all-around champion cowgirl was Shaylee Thacker of Lehi with 476.5.
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