FARMINGTON — Jacob Spencer went head-to-head with the top high school bull riders and proved he one of the best in the nation.
Spencer finished in second place as the reserve champion at the National High School Finals Rodeo on July 20 in Rock Springs, Wyo.
"I was pretty happy with it. All I could do is ride my bulls. I did my part," Spencer said. "If my second round bull would have bucked better, maybe it would have been different, but I did all I could do."
Spencer, who is heading into his junior year at Bloomfield High School, scored 72, 45 and 77 in his three rides for a total of 194, finishing behind only Arvada, Wyo. resident Bryce Burnell's total of 225 in the 156-person competition.
Spencer was given the option to redo his second ride after the bull fell, but he decided to keep the score instead of risk being bucked off and losing the points he had already earned.
"He was a young bull, maybe 2 years old. They don't know what they want to do. He just wanted to get me off. He bucked three times and stumbled," he said. "It wasn't easy at all. I had the option to take the re-ride, but then the score's out, and you don't get a second chance if you're bucked off. If you cover three bulls, you have a good chance at winning it. So I just kept the score. I was happy with the decision."
Spencer hopes the experience at the rodeo will prepare him for the event in the future as he looks to get two more cracks at the championship in the next two years.
"I feel like it will help me stay calm. One thing you have to deal with is nerves when you get to a rodeo that big," he said. "I just looked at every bull like a practice bull when I went in. I'm going to get better and I know this will help me."
Bloomfield High graduate Joseph McConnel, who won the 2012 NHSFR bull riding title, has been friends with Spencer for about seven years, and thinks Spencer has the talent to win the title in the upcoming years.
"He's got the jitterbugs out of the way," said McConnel, who currently competes in the Pro Bull Rider's Touring Pro Division. "For him to do that, I'm proud of him. He's going to be giving those guys fits for the next two years."
McConnel said he wouldn't be surprised if Spencer ends up joining him in the PBR in a couple of years.
"He's come a long way. He showed me some rides that made me go, 'Wow,'" McConnel said of Spencer. "He's definitely got what it takes to make a name for himself."
Spencer took home two championship buckles from the National High School Finals Rodeo -- one for finishing as the reserve champion and one for finishing in the top four of the short round.
Overall, Spencer said he enjoyed his free time at the rodeo by watching the other event and can't wait to return next year.
"It's awesome. You pretty much get a free ticket to go watch everyone compete," he said. "It was great, and I'm looking forward to going back and trying to win the competition."
Prior to the NHSFR, Spencer also competed in the International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Okla.
Spencer and his parents traveled 2,300 miles between their home in Blanco and the events, and Spencer said none of his accomplishments would be possible without his parents' support.
"It took a lot of time and money," he said. "I really appreciate everything from them."Many local cowboys and cowgirls joined Spencer in competing at the NHSFR.
Joshua Perry covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @jperrysuu.