Amy Donaldson
Payson senior Amanda Butler won Friday morning's barrel racing competition at the Utah High School State Finals Rodeo in Heber City. She and her horse, Tic, completed the course in 16.186 seconds. A neighbor talked her into taking up rodeo when she was about 12 and she hopes to earn her second trip to the National High School Finals Rodeo next month in barrel racing and roping.

HEBER CITY — When Amanda Butler got the chance to thank those who helped her find success in rodeo she didn’t hesitate.

The Pullan family and her grandmother, Arlene Sorensen. One lured her into the sport of rodeo, while the other makes sure she looks as good as she rides, races and ropes.

“We started out doing 4H (with the Pullan family), and we’ve always just been friends with them,” said the Payson senior, who won Friday’s morning barrel racing event with a time of 16.186 seconds. “They told us we needed high school rodeo.”

Turns out, Butler said, they were right.

And the student officer for the Utah High School Rodeo Association didn’t just enjoy rodeo, she excelled at it, earning a trip to the National High School Finals Rodeo last summer in barrel racing.

“I’ve been riding horses since I was six,” Butler said “I just went to riding lessons, and we just borrowed horses. Then we finally bot horses when I was about 12, and then it just sprouted from there.”

Butler said learning to race barrels was challenging, in part, because it took awhile to find a good partner.

“It’s been very difficult for me,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of ups and downs with horses that I’ve had to fight with, horses that would rear up, not go through the gate. It’s really nice to ride a horse that wants to do his job and helps me do my job well.”

Finding Tic — named because the former owner said he was as ‘fat as a tick’ — meant finding a horse who loved to race as much as she did.

“I know if I’m going to have a good run after I turn the first barrel,” she said. “If I turn it good, then I know the run is going to be nice.”

Butler came into this week’s finals in first place. She was tied for second after the first performance of finals, but Friday morning’s victory in the second round will certainly improve her position heading into Saturday’s championship round.

“I’d love to go back (to nationals) and do better,” she said of her 13th place finish. “It was such a fun experience.”

Butler was sporting one of the most unique shirts, custom made with material she chose and the fringe she loves, by her grandmother.

“My grandma has made me all these awesome shirts because I like to stand out and be unique,” she said laughing. “I hate matching people. It makes me feel awkward.”

Her experience with rodeo has enriched her life and expanded her opportunities in a lot of ways she couldn’t have predicted when she began learning to rope and ride.

“Being a student officer, it’s taught me leadership skills, teamwork, and sportsmanship,” she said. “Like being happy for others when they do good, and being alright when you don’t do good. And really just supporting everyone on the high school rodeo team.”

Butler said rodeo has changed the kind of high school experience she would have had, as she doesn’t play other sports.

“I’m not coordinated,” she laughs. “I would probably be getting into trouble. Rodeo keeps me out of trouble.”

In the first two performances of the second round, no teens have earned points in bull riding. Briggs Madsen, Spikers, earned the best score of the first round with an 82-point ride.

Friday morning Kaytlyn Miller, Enterprise, earned the fastest time in goat tying with a time of 6.24 seconds. The all-state basketball player is in first in goat tying and tied for first in breakaway roping with one more performance in the second round of competition.

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Cooper Bennett, Spikers, earned the best score of the first round in bareback riding with a 79 point ride. Autumn Snyder, Juab, earned the fastest time in the first round in pole bending with a time of 19.993 seconds. In saddle bronc riding, Stetson Wright, Milford, earned the best score of the first round with 79 points. Ryler Allred, Cedar, earned the best time of the first round in steer wrestling with a time of 5.86.

There was one more performance Friday night, and then the top 10 from each event will advance to Saturday’s championship round where state titles (and saddles) will be awarded and the 2018 Utah National Team will be announced.