Garley, Cowdrey among top finishers at national junior high finals


The week-long appearance at the Wranglers Junior High National Rodeo in Gallup was highly successful for two Valencia County cowboys, but very frustrating for two others.

Blaine Garley and Sterling Cowdrey came home with All-Around Cowboy awards at the June 24-30 rodeo that drew participants from all over the United States and Canada.

Mike Stearns-News-Bulletin photo: team ropers Tristan Sanchez, right, and Tyler Plant, left, work a steer in recent competition. The two were part of eight county junior high rodeo participants that made the Wrangler Jr. High Rodeo National Finals, held in Gallup June 24-30.

But it was a lost weekend for the newly-formed roping team of Tristan Sanchez and Tyler Plant. Plant and Sanchez had high hopes after a second round at the state finals to qualify for nationals. But both runs came up empty for the pair and they recorded no times at the Wrangler event.

Three Valencia County girls had a successful week at Red Rock State Park. Maria Sandoval and Bethanie Shoffner did well in single events, and Avery Gonzales placed high in three events.

But the county contingent was led by Garley and Cowdrey. Garley qualified for the short round on Saturday night in chute dogging, and in team roping — with Gonzales as his heeler.

Cowdrey made the main show in tie-down roping and goat-tying. Garley finished eighth in the all-around cowboy standings with 1,010 points, while Cowdrey was ninth with 940.

Garley and Gonzales won the short round in team roping, posting a time of 8.169 seconds. However, a 36th-place finish in the second round hurt the team’s average and dropped them to fifth overall. They finished 14th in the first run. Garley was 13th of 67 in the tie-down roping and 12th of 110 in chute dogging. Posting times of 2.994 and 3.468 in the second and short rounds of chute dogging, Garley overcame a first round 47th place finish that bumped him just ahead of Cowdrey for overall honors.

Cowdrey took second in the tie-down roping short round with a time of 9.426 seconds. He placed sixth out of 67 cowboys, posting a score of 43.942 seconds in three runs.

He had the best finish of any county participant in the goat-tying competition.

Cowdrey finished third out of 133 with a combined time of 34.586 seconds.

He can see a future in the sport for himself — even beyond his high school years.

“I love to rodeo and wouldn’t give it up for anything — it’s my whole life. I hope to be able to compete on the professional level once I turn 18 and make it to the National Finals Rodeo,” said the ambitious Bosque Farms cowboy.

Plant and Sanchez ran into some tough luck in the team roping runs and were not able to post a time in either round. In the first run, Plant got his foot caught in a barrier, and the team was disqualified. A poor run by the steer nixed the time in the second go.

“I did not have the best of luck at nationals, our draw on the stock was not great. I had the barrier wrap around my foot that didn’t help,” said Plant of the disappointing runs.

The team formed just before state because both partners of Sanchez and Plant found other partners to ride with in the state finals.

Sanchez said it was hard to find practice time but enjoyed the likely one-time combination with Plant.

“It was kind of a rough time. We had a hard time getting together to rope,” said Sanchez. ” It was good to rope with him. He is a good roper and we learned a lot from each other. We made it to nationals and that is all that counts.”

Plant was complimentary of Sanchez as well.

“I was very blessed to have a great partner like Tristan Sanchez, who had faith in me,” he said. “My horse, Popsicle, was the quarter horse of the year at the state level.”

Kyle Lucero, of Peralta, finished in the top half of breakaway roping standings, finishing 40th out of 92 ropers with a combined time of 24.191.

He had times of 12.28 seconds and 12.015 seconds in his rounds.

Bolstered by the fifth place finish in team roping with Garley, Gonzales had the best finish of Valencia County cowgirls.

Gonzales and her team ribbon roping partner, Derek Runyan of Silver City, finished 26th out of 120 entries. A tough second round in goat tying dropped the pair from 16th to 25th — out of 145 tyers.

Shoffner had a tough ride in the first round of pole bending, but the Los Lunas cowgirl responded with a 19th-place run in the second go to finish 26th out of 149 riders.

Bosque Farms’ Sandoval had a two solid rides in the barrel racing rounds to post a 23rd place finish among 153 participants.

Her times were very close as she ran a 16.522 in the first go and a 16.498 in the second for a total time of 33.05 seconds.

Cowdrey, Garley and Plant will be participating in high school rodeo next year.

“My favorite thing about going,” said Cowdrey, “was thinking that I competed with the best of the best from around the world and placing very well. Also, (I made) friends from different parts of the world.”

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