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Laura Seitz, Deseret News
JD Evans of the Oaker/Bingham Rodeo Club attempts to wrestle a steer during the Utah High School Rodeo Finals in Heber.

HEBER CITY — It's not an event that draws huge crowds, but for hundreds of high school cowgirls, tying goats is about as exciting as rodeo gets.

"Goats is where it's at," said Riverton senior Krystal Brown, who qualified for nationals last year and will likely qualify again this year. "The goats are all the skill of the horse and also you working together to get it done."

Brown did well in Friday's barrel racing, completing the course with a time of 16.876 seconds. The winner in barrels was Delainya Veater, Sevier Club, whose time was 16.691 seconds. Brown said the state finals are much more of a pressure cooker than the national event.

"At state, it's more nerve-wracking because it's what you've worked the whole year for," she said. "At nationals I wasn't nervous, but I do want to get back there and do better."

Defending state champion goat-tyer Milli Hughes, a junior from the Dixie club, won Friday morning's competition with a time of 7.07 seconds, which puts her second in the overall standings.

She competes in breakaway and team roping but says tying goats is easily her favorite.

"I've always been good at it," she said. "I'm a goat-tyer."

Also a basketball player for Enterprise High, she said she began riding when she was young as her father is a rancher. The youngest of six children, she has literally grown up around rodeos.

Her goal, like Brown's, is to get back to nationals and do a little better than they did last year.

"I choked," Hughes said. "It was a totally different game for me ... I don't know really what went wrong, but I think I just wanted it way too bad."

She and Brown are cautiously optimistic as they wait for Friday night's final competition. After that, officials will tally scores and determine the top 10 finishers in each event, who will compete in the state championship round Saturday at 5 p.m. The top four in the standings for the entire high school season will move onto the national competition, which will be held in New Mexico this July.

A good horse will get down the arena quickly and drop the cowgirl, while avoiding the goat, which is tied to a peg. What makes a good goat?

"One that just stands there," said Hughes with a smile.

In other events Friday:

Katie Mudge of Panguitch earned Friday morning's best time with 4.57 seconds in the breakaway roping. Harley Atkinson secured his first-place in the overall with a competition-winning 75-point ride. In team roping, Ryan Anderson and Justin Brinkerhoff, Sevier/Spikers, won the team roping with a time of 8.40 seconds.

The top two finishers in the bull riding each had to ride twice as their first bulls didn't buck enough. Justin Haslam, Morgan, won the morning competition with 76 points, while Chance Pope earned 74 points atop Tabasco Cat.

In calf roping, all-state football and baseball player Rhen Richard, Uintah Basin, earned the event's top time with 8.18 seconds. In steer wrestling KC Fryer, South Summit, earned the morning competition's top time with 7.38 seconds.

In pole bending, Makall Clyde, Wasatch, thrilled the home-town crowd with a time of 20.520 seconds.


E-mail: adonaldson@desnews.com