Elida trio captures state rodeo crown

By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

The Elida Tigers rodeo team holds an honor no other school in the state can say they have accomplished — a New Mexico Activities Association high school rodeo title.

Tori Bilberry, Kodi Armitage and Trent Bilberry competed in rodeo events in Gallup during the weekend and won the team title. The three rodeo competitors went up against teens from Albuquerque, Dora, Capitan, Ruidoso, Gallup, Silver City and other New Mexico cities and towns.

Tori, Trent and Kodi accumulated enough points to clinch the top team spot.

“It was a shock to us,” Trent, who recently completed his freshman year, said.

Tori and Kodi qualified for the National High School Finals Rodeo which will take place from July 24 to 30 in Springfield, Ill.

The state competition was the first sanctioned by the NMAA. Robert Zayas, NMAA communications director, said the NMAA sanctioned rodeo, along with bowling and JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) activities for the 2005-06 school year. Zayas said by sanctioning rodeo, high school students can take excused absences to compete in high school rodeos.

Tori won in the breakaway, goat tying and cutting events in the first round. She placed third in goat-tying in the second round. Tori then won breakaway and cutting in the short round and finished third in goat-tying. Tori qualified in breakaway, goat tying and cutting for the national finals.

“It felt really good,” Tori said about her performance. “I was pleased. I had a lot of fun at nationals in Gillette last year. I think I’m going to be less nervous and better-prepared this year.”

Kodi finished in fifth in team roping in the first round and fourth in goat tying. In the second round, Kodi claimed fifth in team roping and sixth in goat tying. Kodi will be making a return trip to nationals. Her older sister, Kenna Armitage, is a rodeo competitor for New Mexico Highlands University. Kenna, a 2003 Elida High School graduate, is currently competing in the collegiate national rodeo finals in Casper, Wyo.

Kodi said Kenna finished in second place in breakaway in the 2002 national high school finals.

“My mother and father taught us everything we know,” Kodi said. “I think it’s cool that our school was the first to win the (NMAA) state championship.”

Trent competed in calf-roping in the first round. He did not qualify for nationals, but hopes to do good enough next year to qualify for nationals. He said he also wants to compete in steer-wrestling next year.

“It was fun to be up there (Gallup) with my sister and rope with my cousins,” Trent said. Trent’s cousins Rana Terry and Payton Terry competed in the state rodeo finals, also. The Terrys recently graduated from Dora High School.