CHEYENNE – Jaxon Farella is going to be a busy young man this week.
The 15-year-old will compete at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo in goat tying, tie-down roping, team roping and ribbon roping. The latter two are team events. He will team rope with Trigg Thompson of Cheyenne, and Ava Reno of Gillette.
Farella would rather be busy starting today in Des Moines, Iowa, than biding his time waiting for his next go-round.
“I have one event each day, and I like that because I have plenty of time to rest and I’m not running around going crazy trying to take care of one horse while getting another horse saddled up and ready for my next event,” he said.
Farella finished No. 2 in the state all-around race this season. He also was second in ribbon roping, third in goat tying, third in team roping and third in tie-down despite missing the final three rodeos of the all portion of the season after breaking his left shoulder in three places when he was blindsided while covering a punt for McCormick Junior High’s eighth-grade football team.
“I was a little rusty when I first came back, but I was lucky that it was my left shoulder because I rope with my right hand,” Farella said.
He knocked that rust off by tie-down roping at the Junior American in Fort Worth, Texas. He roped and tie all of the calves he drew that weekend, but he was assessed penalties for breaking the barrier on each run.
He was back in form by the time the junior high portion of the Wyoming High School Rodeo Association season resumed.
Farella started roping shortly after he could walk, and won a trailer as the all-around cowboy at the 2015 Youth Elk Rodeo. The then 9-year-old had the highest score in five roping events to claim the prize.
He opted for roping because the risk of injury was less than it is in roughstock events.
“You can have one bad wreck and it’s over. I can rope until I’m an old man,” said Farella, who qualified for the NJHFR all three years he was eligible.
This is the second year Farella and Thompson have roped together.
“We’re pretty good friends, and (Farella) is one of the best headers in the state,” Thompson said. “He helps make my end of the run easy. He very rarely misses.”
Thompson, 14, is going to be an eighth-grader at McCormick this fall. He started team roping as a youngster and worked the heel end because his father, Ty, was a header.
“We did it that way so we could both rope at the same time,” Thompson said.
This is Thompson’s first NJHFR trip. He competes in other events during the regular season, but only qualified for nationals in team roping.
“I only started doing the other events two or three years ago, so I’m still learning and getting better,” he said.
Bull riders make the finals
Brenson Bartlett won bull riding at 12 of the 15 rodeos on the junior high portion of the WYHSRA schedule. Dalton Willis won two of the other three, and picked up the aggregate title at the state finals.
Both Cheyenne cowboys will compete at the NJHFR starting today. Neither is a stranger to the national stage.
Both have competed at the National Junior Finals Rodeo, while Willis also has competed at the Youth Bull Riders Association and International Miniature Bull Riders Association world finals.
This week’s trip means the most to Willis.
“I have been trying to make nationals since sixth grade, and I finally made it the last year I could,” said the 14-year-old, who just finished his eighth grade year at Carey Junior High.
Willis finished second in the season standings behind Bartlett. It’s not a spot he envisioned himself in when the season started last fall.
“I was really struggling at the beginning of the year, and I was getting really mad about it,” Willis said. “When I got really mad, I decided to start riding everything I got on. I was bucking off too much early, so I needed to stay small and right the best I could.”
Bartlett credits his consistent winning to a positive attitude.
“I never get down bad and start thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m going to get bucked off this bull,’” said the home-schooled 14-year-old. “I try to approach every ride like, ‘I’m the baddest around and I’m going to ride this bull because I’m the best.’ It’s not a cocky thing, it’s a positive thing.
“You have to keep moving forward, stay positive and look at the upside instead of the down. You can’t look at the negative things about yourself as a bull rider, you have to look at the good things.”
Bartlett – an eighth-grader – still found areas he needed to improve upon heading into the NJHFR.
“I need to set my hips more,” he said. “When the bull kicks, I need to make sure my hips are down that way I’m not way over the front end.”