Macey Baler takes Jackie Hot Lips around a barrel during practice Friday, Nov. 8 in Wittmann.
By Shawn Byrne
Rodeo fans can get a good look at Arizona’s future stars when Wickenburg hosts the Arizona High School Rodeo Association on Saturday and Sunday.
The weekend includes 13 junior high events and 16 high school events, which begin at 8:30 a.m. each day at Everett Bowman Arena, 935 Constellation Road.
AHSRA and Arizona Junior High School Rodeo Association (AJHSRA) promote high school and junior high rodeo on a statewide scale and work toward bringing statewide recognition to the sport of rodeo, according the organization’s website. The AHSRA and AJHSRA strive to promote professional conduct and good sportsmanship at various rodeos.
Its mission is to offer kids in grades six-12 a chance to be competitive student athletes at the highest level of competition in their region, across Arizona and on a national level for championships and thousands of dollars in scholarships.
Macey Baler, a junior at Wickenburg High School, is scheduled to ride in barrel racing and pole bending.
“I like getting to go there with my friends,” Baler said. “We get to bond more with different things than just school. I get to see them outside of school, go do something different with them because not every high school has high school rodeo.”
This is the second year WHS is offering rodeo as a letter sport. A total of six cowboys and cowgirls earned letters from last season: Jett Uldrickson, Payton Hannan, Bryson Alder, Tenley Higgins, Corbin Magley, and Avery Shiver. Baler, who has been learning to rodeo since only 2017, is striving for her letter.
“I really like being able to share it with kids my age rather than competing against kids younger than or adults who are older than me,” she said. “Everyone is super nice and everybody I know enjoys its.”
Baler moved to Arizona in 2017 from Idaho. She showed horses in Idaho for her grandfather but didn’t take up rodeo until she arrived in the Grand Canyon state. Her eyes light up when she speaks about the competition level she’s discovered in Arizona.
“Everybody in Arizona is super good,” Baler said. “It’s kind of intimidating. It’s a different atmosphere down here, especially Wickenburg, which is the Team Roping Capital of the World.”
The junior rodeo rider says she does get nervous, especially at rodeos that Wickenburg hosts, but it’s not because of the events.
“I’m not really anxious because Wickenburg is hosting it, but I’m always nervous when I go out to these things,” she said. “I’m more nervous about helping out, because it will be a long day.”
Baler, who has grown up around horses, sees rodeo or horses being a part of her life into adulthood.
“I haven’t known anything different from having horses around. It’s an expensive pet to have, but I think in the long run it’s something good,” she said. “I like high school rodeo, because it keeps you out of trouble rather than going out. You’re busy. You have to ride your horses.”
Rodeo fans can get an early look at the competitors at the Rodeo Triathlon at 6 p.m. Friday. Competitors will compete for prizes in breakaway roping, running the barrel pattern, and tying a goat all in the same run on the same horse.
Baler encourages everyone, even those who don’t have family members competing, to go out see some of the action.
“It’s fun to see younger people doing it. My grandparents love to go out to see another generation doing it,” she said. “It’s cool to see how young kids are and how well they’re doing.
“You might never imagine yourself doing this sort of stuff, but people are amazed by what kids enjoy doing.”