Laramie High School rodeo

McKenna Clingman competes in breakaway roping in the Laramie High School Rodeo.

If you ask 18-year-old McKenna Clingman, Laramie hosts the best high school rodeo in the state.

That excitement begins today at the Cliff and Martha Hansen Livestock Teaching Arena where hundreds of junior and senior high school rodeo competitors will gather to compete for buckles, points and the chance to make their way to nationals. Events for the junior high competitors begin today, with high school events to follow Saturday and Sunday.

Clingman, a Laramie High School senior and president of the school’s rodeo club, said her team travels all around Wyoming — as well as some cowboys and cowgirls from Colorado and Nebraska — to compete. But the Laramie rodeo, she said, is special for everyone who participates. Not only is it the first rodeo of the spring — it puts on the best show, Clingman said. For her and many others, Saturday’s grand entrance and performance is a highlight of the season.

“We darn sure put on the best performance for the public,” Clingman said. “We can get the season started off right. It’s definitely a fun rodeo to go to.”

In Clingman’s time with the team, last year and this year’s season have seen the best performances for Laramie’s young rodeo cowboys and cowgirls. Laramie’s teenage competitors performed well at the state competition, with several heading to nationals, she said. Part of the program’s recent success, Clingman said, can can attributed to instituting Friday night practices that help the athletes hone their skills.

“It has helped so many kids,” she said. “We’re doing very well because of that practice.”

Around 200 junior high students and 250-300 high schoolers will compete in a variety of events through the weekend. Tickets are sold for Saturday’s performance, but the remaining events are all free for the public to attend at the Hansen Arena located off Wyoming Highway 230 west of Laramie.

Rodeo is more than just competition for Clingman — it’s about passion for the sport, people and animals involved.

“You’ll never find greater friends than you find in rodeo,” she said. “Our rodeo family, they may not be blood-relatives, and you may only see them four months out of the year, but when you come together, it’s like no time has passed. Your rodeo family really has your back.”

More information about this weekend’s rodeo events can be found at www.wyhsra.org.

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