More SportsRodeo


Family-like environment, camaraderie at center of Montana High School Rodeo State Finals

IMG_4024 (1).jpg
Posted at 10:19 AM, Jun 10, 2024

KALISPELL — For many involved in rodeo it's all about the family and community connection it builds, and that couldn't ring more true for the contestants involved in the Montana High School Rodeo State Finals at Majestic Valley Arena.

"Rodeoing is you make friends and then eventually they become just like your family," said Dillon native Josie Robbins. "And I know that every person here, if I needed anything, I could reach out to them and I know for a fact that they would be there to help me in any way possible. So it's just like I'm so thankful for all the friends that have become family."

That sentiment is shared by fellow contestant Tatum Hansen.

"It feels just like you’re a big family. Everybody knows everybody and if they don't, they know of you," said the Glasgow native. "And nobody's gonna walk by you without talking to you or asking you something like, 'How'd your run go today?' It's pretty neat."

And it’s that camaraderie that creates an environment unlike most sports. Everyone is, in a sense, all part of the same team.

"Everybody wants to see you do well," said Stevensville native Kayton French. "And even though we're all competing against each other, if I go out there and make a run and then somebody else does better than me, I'm still gonna be really happy for them because they did amazing, and it's not like we're going against each other. It's like we're all in it together."

There's still pressure competing at the state finals, though.

"Everything's a lot more elevated, I think. Like, you've worked all year, all fall, all spring to get here, and now it's the final show," said French. "So you're just ready to give it your all to be able to compete and try to win."

Even with the higher stakes and qualifying for nationals on the line, at the end of the day most contestants try to treat it like any other rodeo.

"It's a lot more nerve-racking, but I like to look at it like it's just another rodeo," said Robbins. "I mean, there's a lot of pressure on everybody. (You) want to come out here and do the best that you can, but you just have to hold your head on top of your shoulders and be confident in the preparation that you've done and just treat it like another rodeo."

Rodeo has paved a path for countless high schoolers in Montana to live out their dreams and lay a blueprint for taking their talents to the next level.

"I think the high school rodeo has done a great job, and me being new to it coming in my junior year and everybody’s so welcoming," said Hansen. "It just feels like a big family and it really sets you up good for college and stuff I believe."

Following the conclusion of the Montana High School Rodeo State Finals, the top contestants for each event will have their chance to compete at the National High School Rodeo Finals July 14-20 in Rock Springs, Wyo.