Aside from their name, which sounds just like the popular chocolate bar, the Hirschy sisters aren't so sweet. At least not to the other cowgirls in their way.
Brooke and Murphy Hirschy are two of the more competitive cowpokes you'll meet this weekend at the Montana High School Finals Rodeo, which runs through Sunday at the Missoula County Fairgrounds. Each is competing in all five girls' events at the season-ending showdown and both are ranked in the top five for the coveted all-around title, which is basically the same as an MVP award.
Brooke, a sophomore, was ahead in the standings with 794 points coming into the MHSFR; Murphy, a junior, sits four spots back with 605 points. They're two of the season's co-leaders in barrel racing and threats to win in the pole bending, breakaway roping and goat tying events as well. As for their favorite event …
"Oh, I like 'em all," says Brooke, without hesitation.
Both are active in the Montana High School Rodeo Association. Brooke is the student director for pole bending, while Murphy is one of a handful of members "campaigning" for the MHSRA student president position. She has yet to post any flyers around the grounds, though.
"Usually the kids from the eastern side do that," she says with a smile. "Kids in the west are more laid back."
Laid back? If y'all say so.
Through Thursday's first go, the Hirschy sisters had competed in four timed events each, not counting the team roping event, which can be co-ed. They also competed in Wednesday's cow cutting contest, which traditionally opens the five-day State Finals Rodeo. Most of the girls at state compete in multiple events, but the Hirschys have the chance to gang up on the field if they want to.
"We get to help each other," Brooke says. "Like if we have events really close (together) we have to be ready for one, so I'll go get her horse ready. Sometimes it's hard when we're competing against each other."
Therein lies the bigger concern.
"It's tough kind of," Murphy says. "Everybody puts so much pressure on me, especially since I'm the older sister. Everybody is always like, 'Oh your little sister beat you,' and especially this year because she's winning the all-around by quite a bit. She's kickin' butt in that. So yeah, everybody kind of makes fun of me for that, but I actually beat her last week at districts. That was kind of a first. But it's fun. We help each other a lot."
They also cheer for each other a lot.
"I usually watch her, but I don't watch anybody else," says Brooke, "unless it's like the breakaway or team roping. Then I'll watch the cattle. I don't normally watch many people."
The sisters have grown up in Jackson watching their parents compete and listening to their grandparents talk rodeo. Their grandfather, Don Harrington of Butte, is a hall of fame rodeo announcer, but he's since retired from the craft.
"He still goes to a lot of rodeos and stuff," says Murphy, playing her grandfather's distinct voice in her head. "He hasn't ever (called one of our rodeos), but that would've been cool."
Fred Hirschy is from Jackson. He and his wife, Lynn, spend a lot of time coaching their daughters down in the Big Hole on the family plot, which is "really big and really cold," Murphy says.
It can also be comforting, Brooke says.
"It's pretty fun because you get to spend a lot of time with them," says the younger Hirschy. "And they just give you some good advice."
Advice is something Brooke doesn't need a lot of these days, as she's about to wrap up the all-around title, pretty rare for an underclassman, say the MHSRA officials.
"She's always practicing," Murphy says. "She's always giving it 110 percent. She's a perfectionist."
So far, though, Murphy has the sisters' only trip to the National High School Finals Rodeo, after winning the barrels and qualifying in pole bending as a sophomore. She's already qualified for this year's NHSFR in cow cutting.
"Hopefully we can both go to nationals together," Murphy says. "That would be cool."
And why not? The Hirschys do everything else together in rodeo.
But Brooke got off to a rough start on Thursday, tipping three tubes in her best event, pole bending.
"That's not like me," Brooke says. "I usually do pretty good."
She already knows how to fix those first-day jitters and get back on track for the all-around title.
"I just have to be consistent in all my events and place," she says. "That should probably do it."
The Hirschys weren't the only competitors having trouble at the Fairgrounds, which were quagmired for Wednesday's cow cutting event and delayed much of Thursday's action, which was shifted down the track away from the main grandstands.
"It was tough today. It's hard for the horses to run in the mud. You can't expect 100 percent from them, because it's hard for them to run through it," Murphy says. "It was really nice getting to go out to the Sapphire ranch for the cutting. That was inside. It was weird because it wasn't raining out there at all. It was nice out there. But we've had muddy rodeos all spring. We haven't had many dry ones, so we're kind of getting used to it."
Folks better get used to the Hirschys, too, if they haven't already.
Montana High School Finals Rodeo
First go results
1, Victoria Netzer, Sidney, 21.08; 2, Brickael Hale, Hamilton, 21.11; 3, Naomi Knight, Charlo, 21.57; 4, Elly Hogue, Philipsburg, 21.63; 5, Cassidy Nordahl, East Helena, 21.69; 6, Chelsea Brown, Big Sandy, 21.76; 7, Kelsey Lemon, Corvallis, 21.81; 8, Cassie Jumper, Kalispell, 22.03; 9, Kylene Reynolds, Melrose, 22.15; 10, Abbileen Metcalf, Bozeman, 22.21.
1, Shaylee Hance, Circle, 7.60; 2, Niki Baumann, Belgrade, 8.21; 3, Justinn Marshall, Saco, 8.42; 4, Mandy Newman, Melstone, 8.45; 5, Cassidy Nordahl, East Helena, 8.46; 6, Lexy Rianda, Kalispell, 8.58; 7, Abbileen Metcalf, Bozeman, 9.20; 8, Stephanie Newman, Melstone, 9.45; 9, Kelsey Hanson, Helena, 9.55; 10, Joyce Wick, Sidney, 9.56.
1, Jason Schaffer, Broadus, 4.84; 2, Ben Ayre, Glendive, 6.63; 3, Brett Poe, Townsend, 7.48; 4, C.R. Kunesh, Helena, 8.65; 5, Tim Sparing, Helena, 9.96; 6, Dennis Barta, Buffalo, 10.78; 7, Witt Williams, Broadus, 10.79; 8, J.D. Harrell, Roy, 13.23; 9, Luke Gee, Stanford, 14.93; 10, Levi Walchuk, Ronan, 15.50.
Reporter Nick Lockridge may be reached at 523-5298 or at email@example.com.