By Kevin Wilson
Rodeo has always been a family event for the Sant family. This week, they’ll have a chance to create the same atmosphere for the National High School Finals Rodeo.
Dustan and Jaci Sant are two of the three members competing this week in Gillette, Wyo., site of the annual NHSFR. Dustan and Jaci join Elida’s Kodi Armitage for the event, which includes competitors from 39 states, four Canadian provinces and Australia.
This is Jaci’s fourth time at the NHSFR. Dustan, who just completed his freshman year at Dora High School, has that same goal.
“I’m proud of it,” he said. “A goal of mine is to make it all four years like my sister, maybe win something one of those years.”
Both will be competing in the cutting competition, and Jaci will also compete in barrel racing. Armitage is competing in breakaway roping.
Cutting involves focusing on a specified cow, and “cutting” it away from a herd that is let loose in a pen. The competitors are judged on how fast they can cut the respective cow from the rest of the herd.
Dustan said he’s been looking forward to competing for years, and has attended each NHSFR with her sister. Due to his familiarity with the setting, he might not get too nervous leading up to his events.
“The first time you’re nervous because it’s huge,” Jaci said. “Each time, you get more experience.”
On the contrary, she also admits that each year brings with it more urgency to perform well.
“It’s do or die,” she said. “You do it or you don’t. You’ve got two barrels runs and hopefully three.”
Dustan is one of only three freshman to advance past the New Mexico state finals. The qualifying is based on a cumulative points system, meaning that a competitor who is consistent throughout the rodeo season has a better chance than one who comes out of nowhere in the state finals.
It’s that type of consistency that Dustan hopes for in his first foray in the finals.
“I just don’t want to lose a cow,” he said. “That’s my main focus, to have two good cuts and hopefully make it to the short (round).”
The NHSFR is held annually and rotates every two years from among chosen sites. The rodeo just finished a two-year rotation at Farmington.
The rodeo will be telecast on the Outdoor Life Network as part of the American Quarter Horse Association’s “America’s Horse” program on Aug. 15 and 22 at 4 p.m. (Mountain time) each evening.