HEBER CITY — The teens were antsy with anticipation as they hopped on the back of ornery bulls hoping to hang on for just eight seconds.
At stake was pride, a state title and a chance to take a trip to Wyoming for the National High School Rodeo Championship. Eight seconds might not seem like a long time, but when the bulls make a statement like they did Saturday night at the Wasatch County Fair Grounds during the final round of the High School State Rodeo championship, it feels like an eternity.
The first rider went off after just a few seconds and had to leave the arena in an ambulance. The second rider was thrown immediately and then the bull cut the head of a bullfighter and gave one of the judges a ride on his horns.
The eight riders still waiting for their turn tried to focus not on the bad luck other riders seemed to be having, but on what they had to do to win.
"I just kind of think about the moves I'm going to make on the bull," said Shawn Proctor of Tooele High, who won the night's competition with a score of 74 points. "When everyone is getting bucked off it's harder. The momentum of everyone else doing well makes it easier."
Alex Dudley, who scored 73 points and qualified for nationals with the successful ride, agreed it's much harder to straddle that bull when every other cowboy is falling off.
"When everyone is on, it's easier," said Dudley, who just graduated with honors from Spanish Fork High School. "Good rides are kind of contagious."
He said he doesn't worry too much about what other riders do or don't do while he waits in the chutes.
"It's you, yourself, against the bull," he said. "You don't even worry about what they've done. You're never competing against the other people."
Junior Rylan Wright won the state title just by hanging on and scoring a 64. He was even able to spot his family in the stands and give them a wave just before the eight-second buzzer sounded.
The crowd enjoyed some fantastic performances from barrel racing to steer wrestling. The rodeo board of directors honored calf roper Tyrel Terry, an Enterprise High senior who would have competed at this year's state championships. Terry, 18, was killed on May 26 in a car accident.
In his memory, all of the contestants wore Terry's number on their bibs and after the calf roping competition each day the organizers asked the audience to stand as they released a lone calf into the arena. Saturday night, they invited the entire Terry family into the arena and presented them with several mementos, including the rope that hung from the calf's neck each day. Terry's father led a horse with the teenager's hat and rope on the saddle after the calf was released.
All-around cowboy winner was Hutch Haslem, Morgan. All-around cowgirl was Sharlie Percival, Oakers.