HEBER CITY — The Utah High School Rodeo Finals is a championship unlike any other — and not just because animals are involved.
“Most competitions are about rivalry,” said Enterprise High senior Carol Lee Holt, who is currently number one in barrel racing and pole bending with a chance at two state titles. “In rodeo, we cheer for each other. We’re trying to help each other be better. It’s just a good environment, and it’s exciting.”
High school students will compete in the annual state finals Wednesday through Saturday at the Wasatch County Event Center. The cowboys and cowgirls from across the state have worked all year for a shot at competing not just for state titles but also for a chance to represent Utah in the National High School Finals Rodeo in July.
Holt said rodeo has taught her how to set, work for and achieve goals in her life.
“I like being able to succeed and work hard,” said Holt, who is the co-valedictorian and class president, as well as the region runner-up in agricultural science in the Sterling Scholar competition. “I like that I determine how well I do. I like the family time and making good friends and learning the life lessons that rodeo teaches you.”
She said getting up early to care for the horses she rides, as well as committing to the time-consuming training, as well as travel, is something that teaches the value of hard work.
It doesn’t hurt that she’s loved riding horses since “the first time I got on one.” Growing up around horses, rodeo was a natural choice.
She also runs cross country for the Wolves and said that while all sports teach you real-life lessons, rodeo really instills accountability in a person.
“You have to take responsibility for how you do,” she said. “Nobody else. You have to ride your horse; you have to take care of them; you have to get up early in the morning and feed them.”
She is hoping for a good week in her senior rodeo season.
“My goal is to do my best and let my horses do their best,” she said.
The competitions begin Wednesday at 10 a.m. with competitions on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at both 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Each athlete will compete twice in the events for which they’ve qualified and points are given for how they do overall, with the top 10 earning spots in Saturday’s championship round.
The top four from each event will qualify to represent Utah in the National High School Finals next month. It’s an accomplishment student athletes like Holt prepare for all year long. Her dedication has earned her a full-ride scholarship in academics to BYU, where she plans to study accounting.
“I might (pro) rodeo later in life after I get my degree,” Holt said. “I’m sad to be leaving (high school) but excited to be starting a new stage in life.”