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On to nationals: Area cowpokes punch tickets to high school finals in New Mexico
A.J. St. Goddard of Browning hangs on during the bareback competition at the Montana High School Finals Rodeo on Sunday morning at the Missoula County Fairgrounds. Goddard won the event.
Linda thompson/Missoulian

After a damp beginning, the five-day Montana High School Finals Rodeo wrapped up on a beatiful spring Sunday at the Missoula County Fairgrounds.

Following the year-end rodeo, the top four placers in the season standings of each event earned berths at the National High School Finals in Farmington, N.M. Based on strong showings over the weekend, several athletes from Western Montana earned a trip to the national stage July 21-27.

Charlo junior Naomi Knight entered only the pole bending competition, but by the end of the afternoon, she had won a state championship. Knight began the short go with a comfortable nine-point lead over Chelsea Brown of Big Sandy after her first two rides combined for a time of 42.29 seconds. Knight sealed her first state title with the fastest time of the 16 finalists, finishing in 20.86 seconds - a tenth of a second faster than Brown.

Following her victory, Knight felt honored to be able to represent Charlo when she faces the best in country.

"It's pretty cool to come from such a small town and make it to nationals," she said. "Not a lot of people rodeo from where I'm from, so it's pretty special."

Knight will be joined at the national finals by Brown, Cassidy Nordahl of East Helena and Victoria Netzer from Sidney.

Columbia Falls sophomore Matt Triplett used a strong ride on his final bull-riding attempt to leapfrog to the state rodeo finals championship as well as the year-end title. After the first 10 riders failed to produce a score, Potomac's Eddy Brewer scored a 76 before Triplett's crowd-pleasing ride that earned an 81. No other rider produced a score and Triplett jumped from third to first.

"I guess it was a pretty good one," Triplett said of his Sunday ride. "He just went around to the left and then to the right. He worked me a little bit, but I held on."

Drew Baker of Philipsburg took second in the season-ending standings, followed by J.D. Harrell of Roy and Brewer.

Lexy Rianda of Kalispell completed a solid weekend by tying for first in the short go in goat tying with Colstrip's Randa DeCock, each clocking a time of 7.94 seconds. Rianda also placed second in Sunday's breakaway roping event. She finished second overall in breakaway roping and fourth in goat tying.

"I'm not disappointed with taking a second," she said of hear breakaway finish. "The competition is so strong at state, I'm just glad to be going to nationals."

Others who enjoyed a strong weekend included bareback rider A.J. St. Goddard and saddle bronc rider Clay Gruel. Goddard, of Browning, clinched the year's top spot after taking second Sunday and Gruel's first place in the final go secured his saddle bronc state title.

The 2008 overall cowboy title was awarded to Tyler Erickson of Helena. He took the season title in calf roping as well as third place in steer wrestling to score 611 points overall.

Brooke Hirschy of Jackson was the year's all-around cowgirl. She was the state's top barrel racer.

Montana High School Finals Rodeo

Short go results

Bareback riding - 1, Brendon Lemmon, Lewistown, 79; 2, A.J. St. Goddard, Browning, 75; 3 (tie), Justin Miller, Billings and Shane Schutz, Molt, 73; 5, Chase Redfield, Opheim, 70; 6, Kevin Barfuss, Missoula, 68.

Goat tying - 1 (tie), Lexy Rianda, Kalispell and Randa DeCock, Colstrip, 7.94; 3, Shaylee Hance, Circle, 7.96; 4, KayTee Schaffer, Broadus, 8.16; 5, Cassidy Nordahl, East Helena, 8.18; 6, Niki Baumann, Belgrade, 8.22; 7, Layne Wiebe, Jefferson City, 8.49; 8, Carol Peabody, Ekalaka, 8.81; 9, Danielle Staudenmeyer, Dillon, 9.03; 10, Murphy Hirschy, Jackson, 9.08.

Saddle bronc - 1, Clay Gruel, Great Falls, 78; 2, Jake Halmes, Cascade, 72; 3, Rusty Hendrickson, Arlee, 68; 4 (tie), Weston Brown, Big Sanby and Scott Nerlin, Three Forks, 64; 6, Robert Wagner, Browning, 60.

Steer wrestling - 1, Tyler Erickson, Helena, 7.03; 2, Tim Sparing, Helena, 8.86; 3, Dennis Barta, Buffalo, 9.76; 4, Ben Ayre, Glendive, 9.95; 5, Shawn Hanley, Roundup, 12.48; 6, Levi Walchuk, Ronan, 15.56; 7, Brett Poe, Townsend, 17.47.

Pole bending - 1, Naomi Knight, Charlo, 20.86; 2, Chelsea Brown, Big Sandy, 20.87; 3, Murphy Hirschy, Jackson, 21.22; 4, Reena Plaggemeyer, Big Timber, 21.32; 5, Cassidy Nordahl, East Helena, 21.56; 6, Victoria Netzer, Sidney, 21.67; 7, Abbileen Metcalf, Bozeman, 21.94; 8, Elly Hogue, Philipsburg, 25.86; 9, Mariah Rys-Sikora, Missoula, 26.02; 10, Justine Reynolds, Melrose, 26.56.

Bull riding - 1, Matt Triplett, Columbia Falls, 82; 2, Eddy Brewer, Potomac, 76.

Breakaway roping - 1, CaDee Tew, Belgrade, 3.37; 2, Lexy Rianda, Kalispell, 3.62; 3, KayTee Schaffer, Broadus, 4.21; 4, Carol Peabody, Ekalaka, 4.61; 5, Branda Williams, Hammond, 6.83; 6, Anna Haaland, Billings, 12.42; 7, Mandy Newman, Melstone, 12.66; 8, Hannah Sharon, Dillon, 17.63; 9, Kelsey Pepion, Browning, 19.72; 10, Kelsey Hanson, Helena, 20.07.

Calf roping - 1, Nate Eichhorn, Belgrade, 10.13; 2, Dennis Barta, Buffalo, 10.52; 3, Ben Ayre, Glendive, 11.76; 4, Tyler Erickson, Helena, 13.21; 5, Dalton Tamcke, Dillon, 13.78; 6, Wacey Stuart, Miles City, 14.14; 7, Weston Brown, Big Sandy, 19.39.

Team roping - 1, Anna Haaland/Trevor Sunvison, 8.42; 2, Zane Holdbrook/CJ Hanson, 8.43; 3, Witt Williams/Ben Ayre, 10.52; 4, Ryan Ferguson/Grey Chadwick, 10.59; 5, Michael Bisbee/Phillip Maurer, 12.22; 6, Caleb Horner/Charlie Hollenbeck, 13.21; 7, Collin Johnson/Clay Gruel, 16.30; 8, Branda Williams/KayTee Schaffer, 18.24; 9, Kody Lahaya/Nate Eichhorn, 18.33; 10, Lexy Rianda/Jack Brown, 32.87.

Barrel racing - 1, Branda Williams, Hammond, 17.81; 2, Brooke Hirschy, Jackson, 17.92; 3, Abbileen Metcalf, Bozeman, 17.98; 4, Niki Baumann, Belgrade, 18.06; 5, KayTee Schaffer, Broadus, 18.07; 6 (tie), Annie Novotny, Helena and CaDee Tew, Belgrade, 18.20; 8, Mandy Newman, Melstone, 18.22; 9, Mariah Morgan, Stevensville, 18.25; 10, Murphy Hirschy, Jackson, 18.27.

Year-end results

Bareback riding - 1, A.J. St. Goddard, Browning, 148.5; 2, Justin Miller, Billings, 140.5; 3, Brendon Lemmon, Lewistown, 134; 4, Chase Redfield, Opheim, 85.5.

Goat tying - 1, Niki Baumann, Belgrade, 100; 2, Shaylee Hance, Circle, 96; 3, Cassidy Nordahl, East Helena, 94.5; 4, Lexy Rianda, Kalispell, 91.5.

Saddle bronc - 1, Clay Gruel, Great Falls, 149; 2, Jake Halmes, Cascade, 143; 3, Robert Wagner, Browning, 120.5; 4, Brett Burman, Glendive, 112.

Steer wrestling - 1, Ben Ayre, Glendive, 140; 2, Brett Poe, Townsend, 134; 3, Tyler Erickson, Helena, 128; 4, Dennis Barta, Buffalo, 116.

Pole bending - 1, Naomi Knight, Charlo, 148; 2, Chelsea Brown, Big Sandy, 133; 3, Cassidy Nordahl, East Helena, 120; 4, Victoria Netzer, Sidney, 114.

Bull riding - 1, Matt Triplett, Columbia Falls, 139; 2, Drew Baker, Philipsburg, 124.5; 3, J.D. Harrell, Roy, 120; 4, Eddy Brewer, Potomac, 112.5.

Breakaway roping - 1, CaDee Tew, Belgrade, 136; 2, Lexy Rianda, Kalispell, 130; 3, Hannah Sharon, Dillon, 115; 4 (tie), Carol Peabody, Ekalaka and Branda Williams, Hammond, 108.

Calf roping - 1, Tyler Erickson, Helena, 138; 2, Nate Eichhorn, Belgrade, 132; 3, Dennis Varta, Buffalo, 124; 4, Orry Fruit, Ekalaka, 114.

Team roping - 1, Anna Haaland/Trevor Sunvison, 227; 2, Ryan Ferguson/Grey Chadwick, 221; 3, Witt Williams/Ben Syre, 206; 4 (tie), Zane Holdbrook/CJ Hanson and Tyler Erickson/Dalton Tamcke, 188.

Barrel racing - 1, Brooke Hirschy, Jackson, 149; 2 (tie), Annie Novotny, Helena and Mariah Morgan, Stevensville, 121; 4, Niki Buaman, Belgrade, 107.

Girls' all-around - Brooke Hirschy, Jackson, 816.

Boys' all-around - Tyler Erickson, Helena, 611.

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