Consistency’s normally the foundation of success for any National High School Finals Rodeo qualifier.
Particularly when an individual like Durango’s Hannah Belvin is making a maiden appearance.
Having earned her place in Lincoln, Nebraska, and the 73rd Annual NHSFR by finishing fourth in the Colorado State High School Rodeo Association’s year-end barrel racing points, Belvin laid down top 10 runs in each performance she entered. Ultimately, she ended up a strong 32nd out of 187 placers, based on her two-ride total of 36.252 seconds.
Only 27th-place Jessie Stillings of Cedaredge (36.099/2) stood higher for Colorado, which has boasted a barrels champion three times, and twice in the past six years, since the event’s 1951 debut.
Racing into in the Lancaster Event Center on July 20, Belvin clocked 18.202 seconds and finished eighth out of 28 entrants. Ava Grayce Sanders of Vero Beach, Florida (17.501), would eventually stand third overall in the first go-round while Belvin stood 45th.
Ashlyn Goven of Rozet, Wyoming (17.494), led the field by just 0.002 second, and Sanders by 0.007 second.
Back in the saddle July 22, Belvin clocked an improved 18.050 and ended up 10th out of 29 placers, with Kiarra Reiss of Dickinson, North Dakota (17.418), Kiley Slavin of Goodwell, Oklahoma (17.510) and Sanders (17.525) pacing the frontrunners.
Belvin’s time would hold up for 46th in the second-go, but despite not advancing to the deciding short-go July 24, her final standing would improve – not too bad for an up-and-comer not so long removed from Escalante Middle School.
Well outside the top 15 at the previous week’s International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Oklahoma, Sanders’ three-ride total of 52.573 seconds edged Karsen Jackson of Cornville, Arizona, by 0.001 second.
And for the first time in four years, Utah didn’t put a champion on the leaderboard. Utah won three consecutive titles from 2018 to 2020, the first three-peat since South Dakota did it in 1966-68.
Competing in one of the NHSFR’s fastest-moving disciplines, Teryn McWhirter of Ignacio had been scheduled to make her two breakaway-roping attempts in the morning and evening performances July 21.
Unfortunately, only the latter run resulted in a recorded time — a 4.75-second completion well off the pace set by Maryn Buchanan (2.50) of Marana, Arizona. When the dust settled, McWhirter would rank 72nd out of 89 during the second go-round, and ultimately 118th out of 136 placers .
Canadian Kendal Pierson of Wardlow, Alberta, clinched the average, totaling 7.04 (2.60-2.31-2.13) on three tries.
And in team roping, Ignacio’s Bodie Hine and partner Brayden Fillmore of Penrose managed one official time, a 10.35 on July 24, which landed them in 23rd place out of 51 pairs in Performance No. 12. However, they did not make that night’s short-go, ultimately won in 4.24 seconds by twins Colton and Wyatt Allen of Dadeville, Alabama.
Missourians Clay Clayman and Cooper Freeman were 19.20 on three to win the average, while Hine/Fillmore finished 51st out of 85 scoring duos overall.
All told, Team Colorado’s boys finished in 18th-place with 1,303.33 points, and Colorado’s girls finished 17th with 1,255. By comparison, Texas’ girls racked up 6,495.83 points, and second-place Wyoming had 3,085). The Texas boys had 8,042.50 points, followed by Idaho with 4,080).
As in 2020, when the Finals were relocated to Guthrie, Oklahoma, and the famed Lazy E Arena, Texas overwhelmingly captured the co-ed combined crown over second-place Idaho (6,603.33) and third-place Utah (6,600), while Colorado ended up 18th with 2,558.33.
Colorado’s first NHSFR barrel racing champ was Tiffani Burton (now Lowe) of Eagle in 1997, when the finals were at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo. She’d later take her talents to Vernon, Texas, Regional Junior College (shortened to Vernon College in 2001), where she’d meet former Kansas High School Rodeo Association star, future husband and eventual three-time PRCA World Bareback Riding Champion Will Lowe.
The two married in 2002, the year Will Lowe earned PRCA Resistol Overall and Bareback Riding Rookie-of-the-Year honors. The couple would compete regularly on the professional circuit in their respective specialties.
Brush High School grad Alex Odle became Colorado’s second Nationals winner in 2016, and after moving to Penrose, where she briefly attended Florence before completing her education online through GOAL Academy. Former Sargent High student-athlete Elle Eagles followed in 2017.