FARMINGTON — A trio of San Juan County rodeo stars are ready to rock the national stage, confident their areas of expertise across the board will serve them well.
They'll be among 1,500 competitors from three states, as well as contenders from provinces in Canada, Australia and Mexico, during the National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
The week-long event starts on July 14.
"We've all worked hard all year long. We deserve to go," said Cami Reed, who will be in the goat-tying event. "Just the work we put in to get there is really rewarding."
Although a state title in the goat-tying competition again eluded her, Reed hopes to bring home hardware from her fourth straight nationals appearance.
McKenzie Watkins, fresh off a state championship three-peat in trapshooting (shooting clay pigeons), will compete in her third straight nationals tournament in the breakaway (calf-roping) and trapshooting events.
Frankie Florez, who's going to national for his second straight year, won the 2019 state title in the saddle bronc riding competition by a 48-point margin.
"It's great, I'm excited. Last year, I kind of got my feet wet. But this year, I'm feeling more confident," Florez said.
And the group's implementing rigorous training for their respective events to ensure a strong, accumulative end result.
Florez, who still has another year of high school rodeo, trains on his bucking machine regularly to be ready to hang onto to his horse for extended periods and not be thrown off.
Reed does daily speed and reflex training, building up muscle memory to chase down goats and tie up their limbs quickly.
"My hands are on the go every day," said Reed, an Eastern New Mexico University rodeo signee.
Whether she uses a dummy or an actual steer, Watkins stresses good timing in wrangling the calf's throat area for a firm hold.
The trio looks to be ultra thorough in each event, well-aware that little things such as not tying a calf or goat with that extra-tight knot can be costly.
"We have a pretty strong team going into nationals. The three of us are pretty good at everything we do," said Watkins, a New Mexico Junior College rodeo signee. "It's been exciting all the way through."
Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached via email at email@example.com, at 505-564-4577 or on Twitter at @MattH_717.