GREAT FALLS — Not every rodeo athlete has the distinct advantage of having rodeo royalty as their parents, but for Belt’s Ryley Mapston, he’s got the best help one could ask for heading into the National High School Rodeo Finals.
“It feels pretty good,” Ryley admitted. “With my dad [having been] to the national finals and now I'm going to nationals, it's pretty special.”
His father, Ryan Mapston, didn’t just go to the National Finals Rodeo, he excelled in it having qualified 10 times throughout his rodeo career, good enough to earn him a spot in the Montana Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. Ryley’s mother, Darcy Mapston, is also an accomplished barrel racer still competing with more than 10 trips to the Montana Circuit Finals, making their advice, some of the best he can get.
“You give advice and then you back off and see if they've listened,” father and current University of Providence rodeo co-coach explained. “You keep moving forward and as long as you keep moving forward, you're making progress.”
Ryley heads to Gillette, Wyoming, July 17, to compete in calf roping at the high school nationals where advice like this will come in handy.
“Go there and show up and do the best that you can do and know that you can do it and trust your abilities and, you know, go there to make some noise," Ryley said.
For Ryley, he’s peaking at the right time. In his junior high and early high school years, Ryley had a tough time growing physically so he had to rely on technique and skill to be able to flank larger calves and be able to tie them for solid times. Now, as an 18-year-old, he’s hit his growth spurt and with the skills he already accrued, he’s got the complete package.
“He’s been pretty small and so he was running to rope calves and he could really get off good, but then he'd have trouble flanking them because he wasn't very big,” Ryan explained. “The last two years he's really, really grown a lot and gotten stronger.”
Despite it being Ryley’s first and last national high school rodeo appearance before he heads to college to further his rodeo career, he understands the scale of competition is going to be greater than what he’s used to but at the same time is excited for the challenge.
“This is going to be a whole new experience for me," Ryley said. "It's another level, something else that I'm not going to be used to, but it's going to be fun. I think it's going to be exciting.”