TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) –Tucson’s Marcos Martinez teamed with Winkelman’s John Gaona Jr. to win the team roping title at the National High School Finals Rodeo.
The event, hosted by the National High School Rodeo Association, was held at the CAM-PLEX Event Facility in Gillette, WY.
Martinez and Gaona posted a 5.16-second time Saturday during the 13th and final performance and finished with an average time of 17.08 seconds. That was more than a second better than the runners-up and seven seconds better than the third-place team.
For the first time in over two decades, a Montana girl has won the title of Miss National High School Rodeo Queen.
Opal Harkins, 17, came away with the sash and crown after a 10-day competition in Gillette, Wyo.
Harkins won 5 of 8 events on her way to victory, showcasing her skills in horsemanship, speech, modeling, appearance and personality.
Horsemanship, which sets the competition apart from other pageants, set Harkins apart from the 44 other hopefuls vying for the title.
“I’ve been rodeoing since I was very little,” Harkins said. “As a rodeo queen, that is what I’m best at.”
Born and raised in Billings, Harkins has rodeo running through her veins. She has four older siblings who have all found success in rodeo and her grandfather Odis is a member of the Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame.
The 26-year-old from Redmond, Ore., captured the bareback riding world title, the WNFR average championship and the RAM Top Gun award.
Peebles rode for 83.5 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Good Time Charlie to split the Round-10 win and move ahead of four-time World Champion Kaycee Feild by $10,523 after Feild failed to earn a check aboard Frontier Rodeo’s Times Up.
“I tried not to get any butterflies before I got on my horse, and I wanted to have a lot of energy and fight,” Peebles said. “I stared at the horse and just kept saying to myself, ‘He isn’t faster than me. He isn’t faster than me.'”
The horse was just the right speed for Peebles, who was simply thankful to be alive and competing in Las Vegas. He almost lost his life in July after suffering a broken rib that nicked an artery and filled his lungs with blood at the Livingston (Mont.) Roundup. He was rushed to the hospital and made it without a moment to spare as doctors were able to drain his lungs and save his life.
“We’re a very close family,” Harkins said. “Rodeo is what made us so close, I think.”
Outside of rodeo, Harkins enjoys boating, graphic design and working for a Montana-founded clothing company, Rodeo Ready. She attends Montana State University-Billings through the Connections program.
Harkins hopes to use her new title as a means to educate people about the National High School Rodeo Association and encourage others to join the program.
Rusty was third overall in his first trip to the WNFR last year, finishing with $244,448, and won rounds 4, 7 and 8 in the event while placing in seven of the 10 rounds. He starts this year with $117,942, trailing brother-in-law CoBurn Bradshaw of Beaver ($130,751) and money leader Jacobs Crawley of Boerne, Texas ($172,303).
Rusty and CoBurn will have plenty of family competing alongside in the 15-cowboy field. Jake Wright is fifth with $91,523 in money won, Jesse is ranked 10th ($76,116), Cody starts 11th ($75,446) and Ryder Wright made the field in 14th with $70,604.
For the 10-day rodeo, there are plenty of opportunities to climb the money ladder. The winner of each go in the event earns more than $26,000, and the winner in the average for the full rodeo earns a bonus of more than $67,000.
More money, more prestige and a Montana champion will be again on display this year in the team roping at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
But a famous figure won’t be there because of injury.
Jake Barnes, a seven-time world champion who has combined with several heelers to win a record 31 go-rounds at the NFR, suffered severe injuries when his horse fell while practicing Nov. 27 and will not be able to compete at this year’s rich rodeo.
Barnes, a 56-year-old header, qualified for what would have been his 27th NFR as he and partner Junior Nogueira finished 11th in the 2015 world standings. According to a press release distributed by the PRCA, Barnes suffered a head injury and broken ankle and is hospitalized in Arizona.