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Bull rider celebrates his birthday with a performance winning ride as high school finals continue

HEBER CITY — Hayes Weight said his parents knew he was going to be a bull rider before he was out of diapers.

“I was two and my first word was cow,” said the soon-to-be senior at Payson High after he earned the top score in Friday’s bull riding performance of the State High School Rodeo Finals with 68 points. “From then on, they knew I was going to ride bulls. My mom didn’t want me to, but I was riding sheep and calves.”

In fact, he’d ride just about anything he could until he was finally old enough to try out his skills on a bull. He’s had a couple of injuries and close calls, but nothing that would deter him from his pursuit of bull riding glory.

“I got knocked out when I was seven,” he said. “And after that, my mom didn’t really push me to go anymore. After that, I was pushing them.”

During last year’s state finals, a bull threw him and then stepped on his head.

“I don’t really remember it,” he said. “I just remember nodding and being carried out.”

Throughout the years of triumph and disappointment, he’s remained steadfast in his passion for the sport that highlights most rodeo performances. It’s the challenge and the pressure that he loves.

“You can feel the tension in the crowd and all of it, and it’s just cool,” said Weight.

To celebrate his 17th birthday, Weight’s mom got him a tiara, and a friend decided it would be a good idea to put it on his helmet for Friday morning’s ride on Schitzo — a bull he’s faced before but never ridden to the buzzer.

“He’s pretty fun,” Weight said of Schitzo. “He’s really quick and snappy, makes you have to hustle.”

Weight entered the state finals in 11th place, but, after two good rides in the first two rounds, he’s in sixth place. He will get one more chance to ride a bull in Saturday’s championship round, and, if he’s successful, he could have a shot at making the national team.

He wasn’t the only competitor trying to earn a spot on the team that will represent Utah when it defends the national title it earned last year. Wasatch senior Sadie Fitzgerald won Friday’s performance in goat tying with a time of 8.76 seconds. That’s second place in the second round with one more performance to go. Entered in seven events, she said she’s enjoyed her last high school state finals.

“It’s been one of my better state finals,” she said. “I’ve been a little bit more consistent.”

She has a chance to make the national team in Cow Cutting, although she had to have a good performance Friday to stay in the top four, which she did.

The Wasatch High alum said it’s a good thing she was born into a rodeo family because it is the only sport she’s enjoyed.

“It’s just who I am,” she said. “I live on a cattle ranch here in Heber, and I’ve been riding since I was two. … I love working with the horses. It’s just my whole life.”

Paden Woolstenhulme earned the fastest time in the tiedown roping with a time of 11.44 seconds. He wasn’t sure he’d have a shot at making the national team, but now he’s hoping for the best.

“Coming in, I didn’t think I really had a shot,” he said. “I came in 20th, and I placed third in the first round, and made a nice run here in this round. So I’ll just keep going.”

He enjoys steer wrestling more, but has had more roping success this week.

The only downside to his success this week is that his mother has been hospitalized with pancreatitis. “It’s pretty hard for her,” said the senior from South Summit High. “My sisters are on top of it. They video and get it to her right away, and she can watch on the TV in the hospital.”

The rodeo’s second round wraps up Friday night with the top 10 from this week’s performances competing in Saturday’s championship round, which begins at 6 p.m. The top four in each event (including scores from the entire season) will represent Utah at nationals next month. State champions will also be crowned Saturday night.

Email: adonaldson@deseretnews.com

Twitter: adonsports