Livestock was being delivered and contestants were bringing in their horses Thursday at the Farm-City Pro Rodeo Arena in Hermiston.
Jacee Currin of Heppner rolled in with six horses for the annual Intermountain High School Rodeo Association event that will run Friday through Sunday.
The rodeo will feature junior high and high school competition, with competitors coming from all over Oregon. Action begins Friday morning with the state finals in boys and girls cow cutting. Admission is free.
Friday will feature the state finals in cow cutting at 10 a.m., followed by the first round of the junior high rodeo at 5 p.m.
Saturday will feature the first round of the high school rodeo at 9 a.m., with junior high action at 5 p.m.
The second round of high school action will begin at 9 a.m. Sunday.
Hermiston is stop No. 5 on the seven-rodeo circuit. Ropers and riders earn points with each run or ride, with the top 20 in each event advancing to the state finals in June in Prineville. From there, the top four will move on to nationals.
The Intermountain group, which has athletes from Umatilla and Morrow counties, has three seniors, all of whom will continue their rodeo careers in college.
Currin, who helped the Mustangs win a state 2A basketball title in March, will compete in just about every event this weekend that does not involve rough stock or steers. She will open with the cow cutting, an event that was near and dear to her great aunt, Jean Barbouletos.
“She was really into it, but it took me a long time to get the hang of it,” said Currin, who leads the standings with a 1½-point lead over Lexi Harrell of Baker. “I have really good trainer, which helps.”
Goat tying and breakaway roping are two of her favorite events. Currin leads the standings in goat tying by six points over Brooklin Quinsenberry of Roseburg.
“Goat tying takes a lot of work and a lot of practice,” Currin said. “I have a really good horse, IRS (she was born on April 15), who took me to nationals in junior high and high school, but she got hurt last year.”
Currin now rides IRS’ daughter Nila.
“Last year at nationals we had a little oops, but we were just starting,” Currin said. “Hopefully, we are over that.”
Currin brought six horses to Hermiston, including cutting horse Buttercup, and barrel horse Flaxy.
“Consistency is key in high school rodeo,” she said. “They all have their specialty.”
Currin will carry on the family tradition of attending Montana State. Her brother Kolby already is there, and her parents Steve and Lisanne met there in college while on the rodeo team.
Sorey, a senior at Pendleton, was the quarterback for the Bucks during their run to the state semifinals in the fall, and also has roped at the famed Pendleton Round-Up.
This spring, he finds himself atop the tie-down standings with 47 points. Dillon Young of Redmond, who has signed play football at Eastern Oregon University, is second with 39 points.
“Fall was a lot better than spring has been, but there is a lot of spring left,” Sorey said. “Tie-down competition varies. There are some darn tough kids who play other sports and are competitors. You have to draw good cattle to win. I have drawn pretty well. What separates the good from the best, is the best can draw anything and win.”
Sorey also will team rope with Brady White from Burns. The pair is ranked fifth.
“Things have been going good,” said Sorey, who will ride his paint horse Spot in the event.
Sorey will attend Weatherford College, Weatherford, Texas, where he will major in agri-business. His scholarship includes full tuition, fees and books.
“Down there, they rope tough,” Sorey said. “You want a chance to rope with the best and get better. To learn and get better with those guys is exciting. And the weather there is nice, which gives you more time to practice.”
The Heppner senior, who is headed to Washington State, will compete in the barrels, breakaway roping and team roping this weekend.
Like Currin, Mahoney saw her top barrel horse McGraw (named after singer Tim McGraw) go down last spring.
“We foaled him on the ranch, and I started using him in the seventh grade in poles,” Mahoney said. “From eighth grade to last spring, I used him for everything.”
Now, Mahoney will try her luck on Duke in barrel racing, and Dixie in team roping (with her younger brother Blane) and breakaway roping. She is ranked 10th in barrels and 11th in breakaway.
“I’m in a building year,” Mahoney said. “I’m working with my horses. I have no expectations. It takes a lot of rodeo runs to get in sync and build a relationship with your horse.”
In college, Mahoney will ride under the WSU flag, but will compete as an independent and practice on her own.
She plans on majoring in animal science, and would like to be a veterinarian.