Austin County trio shines at NHSRA Finals

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Three female rodeo athletes from Austin County made the trip to Guthrie, Okla. for the National High School Rodeo Association Finals and not only came away with top finishes in their events but also earned a fifth consecutive team title for the state of Texas.

Jayci Byler competed in pole bending, Samantha Perko participated in girls cutting, and Robbin Rice did both the reigned cow horse and girls cutting events. As luck would have it, the three athletes were able to spend plenty of time together at the competition, Perko said.

“We were able to hang out and then our stalls were right next to each other. We able to walk our horses out together we rode our horses together,” Perko said in a July 27 phone interview. “I don’t know how it worked out that way, but we all checked each other’s water, would fill it up if it was if it was empty.”

Perko said the Austin County representatives supported each other and it was greatly needed after the team title was at risk of not going back to the lone star state for the fifth year in a row.

“We were actually down by 25 points at one time to Kansas, so we had a pretty good scare,” Perko said. “I want to say about half of the girls didn’t do great in their first round, so we needed a bunch of points.”

The Austin County group were some of the exceptions to the early-round woes.

In pole bending, Byler took the top spot in her first go and followed that up with a second-place finish in her second go. However, an 18th-place finish in the short go bumped her total time to 66.438 seconds which earned her 16th overall in the country.

Rice took third in her first two goes at girls cutting, earning 141 and 146 points respectively to earn a spot in the short go. In the final round, she garnered a score of 144 points which had her fourth in the go and ultimately helped her finish fifth overall in the event with a total score of 431.

In reigned cow horse, Rice took 15th in the first go with 236 points and 10th in the second go with 269 points although that wasn’t enough to get her in the short go. Her total of 505 points landed her 59th overall in the event.

Perko came out on top of her first go, scoring 146 points which also helped her secure a tie for second place in the jackpot for $336.23. In the second round, though, she said with about five seconds left, she lost one of her cows which was a five-point deduction from both judges. Her second go score of 136 points had her tied for seventh in the round and on the bubble of the short go.

“It was rough, I was really upset because it’s nationals and if you lose a cow that’s it,” Perko said of her second-round performance. “But I was able to get in the short go in the top 20, it was a four-way tie for 18th so they ended up pushing 21 girls back because of the tie. I ended up just skimming in there so I knew I was out of reach of the title but I knew if I just went in there and laid a good clean run down, I might be in it for the average and I could still get short-go money or awards.”

She did just that and managed a score of 141 points which had her seventh in the go and earned $438.12 from the jackpot. Her three rounds had her 12th overall in the event with a total score of 423 points but the biggest thing Perko walked away with from the competition was the insider knowledge of how to come out on top of the whole thing.

“Now that I’ve been to nationals, I know what it takes to win nationals,” she said. “I can’t say I feel confident that I’ll win next year but I feel confident that I will do good, if everything goes right, Lord-willing. But I just feel confident that we have a good shot. (My) horse is definitely capable of it, I’m capable of it so I just have to realize that and be able to put everything together at one time, three different times in a row.”

Name Event Best score/time Total score/time Overall finish
Jayci Byler Pole Bending 20.148 66.438 16
Robbin Rice Girls Cutting  146  431 T-5
Robbin Rice Reigned Cow Horse 269 505 59
Samantha Perko Girls Cutting 146 423 T-12

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