All the practice, all the time, makes this so much sweeter. I went to nationals last year, but this is Cameron's first time and I am so excited for him. This is so amazing, but I can't wait to see what we can do. —Wyatt Caldwell
HEBER CITY — In the midst of sorting out this year's Utah high school rodeo champions, participants and spectators paused Saturday for something more important than the competition.
During the opening day of the Utah High School Rodeo finals Wednesday, Kashley Donathan was involved in an accident during the pole bending event. Donathan was tossed from her horse and in the course of her fall, suffered a lacerated liver. She remained in the ICU at Utah Valley Medical Center in Provo on Saturday.
Despite being in the hospital, however, Donathan was able to view this week's rodeo events via a streaming video feed, and her and her family were touched as they watched online as this year's rodeo queens and other volunteers race up and down the isles collecting cash donations for her while a song was played. By the end of the song, the crowd raised $3,361.
A silent auction was also held that included items signed by legends Casey Fields and Cody Wright to add more than $8,000 more to the total, bringing the net proceeds for Donathan to just under $12,000.
The family vibe continued in the actual competition, as brothers Rusty Wright and Rider Wright faced off in the saddle bronc competition against the newest addition to the Wright family, Coburn Bradshaw. Bradshaw proposed to Rachel Wright Friday night, and will become the Wright brothers' uncle. Rachel is the aunt of Rusty and Rider.
Bradshaw not only won the hand of Rachel, but nabbed the state championship as well, just edging out Rusty and then Rider, giving the new family members the top three slots in one of the most prestigious events of the week.
Besides family and charity, hard work emerged as the theme of the night — as expected.
"It's so worth it," said Sheldon Helm of Grantsville. "All the hard work pays off in that moment. Even though it's only a few seconds, the feeling is incredible."
Helm took the state championship in bareback riding and noted the long hours of not only practicing but feeding and caring for his animals as well.
"When I get home from school I practice and rope but then I have to groom and feed my horse. But I love it. It's just what I do," Helm said.
Wyatt Caldwell and Cameron Smith from Lehi snagged the top spot in team roping and ensured themselves a trip to Rock Springs, Wyo., for nationals.
"All the practice, all the time, makes this so much sweeter," Caldwell said. "I went to nationals last year, but this is Cameron's first time and I am so excited for him. This is so amazing, but I can't wait to see what we can do."
Smith was just as enthusiastic about their results.
"This feels so good. To do what we knew we could is amazing," Smith said.
The duo roped in an incredible time of 6.66 seconds to help edge out Brody Adams and Dax Barnson of Dixie.
While the thrill of victory escaped many of the participants, the top four from each event qualified for July's national event in Rock Springs, which was the main goal of many.