BELGRADE — Tucked away on the outskirts of Belgrade is a ranch more than a century old. It’s mainly used for farming, but for three Belgrade athletes, they used it as practice facility to help them win a few state championships.
Team roping duo Gavin Duncan and Trace Fuller just won the state title at the Montana High School Rodeo Association finals in Baker, while Paige Rasmussen took first in goat tying.
“It’s feels good because I’ve been at high school rodeo for four years now and I’ve come up short every state finals for the past three years, so it felt good finally coming out there and winning it,” said Duncan, who recently graduated from Manhattan High School.
“We worked and practiced for a long, long time before we were able to take a state championship. I guess all the practice in the arena finally paid off,” said Fuller, a junior. “I really wanted Gavin to get a state title, it was his last year, and I still got one more year to go so I’ll try to do it again.”
With Duncan as the header and Fuller as the heeler, the two have to balance the busy schedule of a cowboy with their love of the sport.
“I go to work during the days and come home, and either me and Trace rope, or me and my brothers rope, and we come out here, saddle two or three horses and rope three or four pens of steers and just keep getting better and consistent,” said Duncan.
It was a long time coming for Duncan, who has twice finished fifth, just missing the cut for nationals. It was also overdue for Rasmussen, who also waited three years for her title
“It was kind of unreal. I was expecting to win, but it finally happened and so it was hard to believe at first, but then I realized all my hard work had paid off,” she smiled.
Now the trio is heading to the national championships in Rock Springs, Wyo. in July.
“The goal will be to place in each round and that should win us the average and just leave it out in the arena,” said Fuller.
From a practice facility on the outskirts of Belgrade to the big stage in Wyoming, these three are ready to help each other come back home as national champions.
“It shows that we know how to work hard and we know how to get it done, and we kind of all work together,” Rasmussen said. “We’re all a family here, we all practice together, we hang out and so I think it wears off on each other.”
Win or lose next month, Duncan will be heading to Sheridan College to join the rodeo team with his brother, Rasmussen is headed to Montana State’s rodeo team, and Fuller already found a new partner to try and get another buckle next year.