By Eric Butler: Freedom Newspapers
CLOVIS — The first one out of the chute may be the victim of some nerves, but there are advantages to that, too.
On Friday afternoon, Tularosa’s Lon Danley was the first to go in the 9-12 steer riding competition. Danley had one thing in mind as his steer, with him aboard, bolted into Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena.
“Set the pace,” said Danley, who did just that by scoring a 74.
What was at stake for Danley and his fellow youthful competitors at the High Plains Junior Rodeo Association Finals was a place in today’s final performance, starting at 9 a.m. The top five times or scores advance to the final short-go in each event.
Knowing that the previous best in steer riding was a score of 73, Danley’s time practically assured him a spot in the championship round and, sure enough, no other competitor in his division scored above a 70 on Friday.
The 13-year-old admitted to a touch of nervousness, nevertheless.
“A little bit,” said Danley, who combats anxiety by thinking of the consequences of getting thrown before the critical eight-second mark.
“I’ve been on that steer four times now; he’s a pretty good steer. He doesn’t have (a name), just ‘Number Nine.’ I just think about what it’s gonna do if I fall off of him and it makes me stay on top of him.”
In the 9-12 boys double-mugging event, Jace Davis of Capitan was the one of the first competitors as well to get his chance. The youngster, after recording a time of 13.52 seconds, studiously avoided watching the other entrants while he fixed the equipment on his horse.
“I just had a good feeling about it,” explained Davis, who did end up having the best time of the day.
Davis’ other try in the double-mugging, earlier in the week, was a no time as he failed to lasso his quarry. That put the youngster in a precarious position, in hopes of making the finals, heading into his final attempt on Friday.
“I was kind of upset, because I really wanted to make it in this event,” the 10-year-old said. “But I think I’m probably going to make it now.
“I thought I had to go pretty fast, so I could make it to the short-go. My dad told me it had to be 13 (seconds) and that’s what I did.”
Others knew that the Saturday finale would be out of reach, no matter how well they did on Friday. In goat tying, the five finalists are chosen based on the combined times of two runs. Even though Tierra Gray entered the HPJRA Finals week with the overall season lead in the 9-to-12 category, a subpar time earlier in the week meant she probably wouldn’t get into the last short-go.
“I had a bad run, my first run. It all went wrong,” said Gray, who said that everything was just the opposite in her 9.24 second run on Friday — the fastest of the day.
“It felt good,” said the 12-year-old from Lovington.