PONOKA — Jayne Lauweryssen of Big Valley had mixed emotions on the weekend as she qualified for the National High School Rodeo Association finals this summer in Wyoming.
In her final year of high school competition, Lauweryssen qualified for her first nationals in both breakaway roping and goat-tying at the Alberta High School Rodeo Association provincial finals on the soggy Ponoka Stampede Grounds.
“I had a really good year,” she said. “I was super successful. I had a new horse (Lynn) I was working on in the goat-tying, so I didn’t come in to provincials as high as I would like to on that horse. But we got things figured out and he’s working awesome, and I have all the horses and all the support from my family and friends to get me there.”
In her moment of glory, though, Lauweryssen couldn’t help but think of big brother Benjamin, who narrowly missing qualifying for the nationals in team roping with partner Riley Chalack of Carstairs.
“Yeah, he was discouraged,” said Jayne, 17. “It was hard for Mom and Dad. They were, like, ‘How to be so happy for one kid and sad for another?’ But we all have our time, I guess. He’s been working hard and he’ll get rewarded for it.”
Jayne Lauweryssen has qualified for the national finals, set for July 15-21 in Rock Springs, Wy., and though Benjamin and his partner didn’t reach that goal, they’ve got a promising Plan B.
“He needed to catch their last steer and it didn’t work out for them,” Jayne said. “But they’re going to head to Virden, Man., in (early) August to compete in the Canadian finals.”
Benjamin Lauweryssen, 18, was a winner even before the provincials began last Friday and continued through Sunday on a wet and windy weekend. His mates in District 2 picked his horse, Gunner, as heel horse of the year.
“His horse gets borrowed by many other kids at the rodeos,” Jayne said. “He’s an amazing heel horse and Ben loans him out lots of the time.”
After finishing Grade 12 through Golden Hills Learning Academy, Jayne is bound for Sheridan, Wy., on a rodeo scholarship. She plans to study nursing while continuing her rodeo passion.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “It should be a great opportunity.”
Lauweryssen weathered a big challenge on the weekend as competitors battled rain and wind all three days.
Her muddy cowboy hat was testament to that.
“The weather was challenging, but I figure if I stay warm and what not, I can compete the same,” Jayne said. “When the weather is like that, lots of kids get beat out before it starts, so it kind of gives you a chance to stay warm and do your best and not let the weather bother you. I had to like the rain and the cold for the weekend, and I guess it worked out to my advantage.
“The last couple of years, I didn’t have the best (provincial) finals, and finally this year, it all worked together. I guess with good faith and hard work, anything is possible.”
Jayne Lauweryssen will have Big Valley company when she competes in the national finals in Wyoming.
Brooke Skocdopole, a member of the class of 2012 at William E. Hay Composite High School in Stettler, also qualified in breakaway roping.
Big Valley cowboy Zeke Thurston punched his ticket to his third national finals with a runner-up finish to Layton Green of Meeting Creek in the provincial saddle-bronc at Ponoka.
Stettler’s Dani Potter, also a William E. Hay graduate, went into the provincials as one of the favourites in goat-tying, but a tough weekend left her out of the picture for the national finals. Potter, however, has earned a berth in the Silver State Invitational Rodeo, which is slated for July 2-7 at Winnemucca, Nev.
At the provincials, Consort cowboy Brant Jones, who trains in Stettler during the winter months, won the bull-riding competition.
Cawl Braithwaite of Bluffton was the runner-up, while Shane Peters of Delburne tied for third place with Bailey Hlus of Innisfree.
The trip to the nationals in Wyoming is a family affair for Thurston, whose father Skeeter comes from the neighbouring state of Nebraska.
“I’ve got family in Wyoming, so it’s pretty familiar,” Thurston said between final-round events Sunday.
“I had a pretty good shot (at qualifying for the nationals) and I’ve been there twice before, so it’s kind of same old, same old.
“But I guess anything could happen. You could come here and fall off all three (horses) and not make it.”
Nursing a sore leg and scuffed-up knuckles, Thurston was one of the busiest cowboys at the provincials. He didn’t seem fazed by the wacky weather.
“It was just kind of a wet, damp weekend,” said Thurston, who was Jayne Lauweryssen’s team-roping partner. “I guess you’ve got to put up with whatever comes at you. With a little rain and wind, and stuff like that, you’ve just got to take extra precautions.
“When it’s raining, you want to cover up your equipment and keep everything as dry as you can, especially the swells on your saddle-bronc saddle, and keep your rosin dry. Rosin kind of helps you stick in there — and that’s crucial.”
Green was the provincial saddle-bronc champion, but the Meeting Creek veteran has opted out of the national finals. He doesn’t want to be stateside when pro rodeos are on tap in Canada.
“I’ll stay up here and go to these pro rodeos, and hopefully go to Edmonton again (for the Canadian Finals Rodeo in the fall),” Green said.
“I went (to the high school nationals) in my Grade 10 year, and ended up second down there, and after that, I just haven’t gone back.
“Last year was my first year going pro in the novice … so I decided to stay up here and try and make Edmonton. That was kind of my goal. Same with this here.”
After wrapping up his saddle-bronc victory Sunday in Ponoka, Green hopped into his truck at 1:30 p.m. and departed for a three-hour-plus ride to a rodeo in Marwayne.
“You’ve got to put the pedal to the metal,” he said with a laugh. “I’ll probably get on at 6 o’clock tonight.”
He had favourable results from his high school swan song, albeit in nasty conditions.
“I drew some decent horses — I didn’t draw the best, but I did what I could with what I had,” Green said. “I had a really good horse today, and he was just awesome. It worked out really good.
“The mud and rain doesn’t bother me too much. You just go out and do your job. It happens every year — so you’ve just got to deal with it. I’ve seen a lot worse than this.”