Pictured in main photograph: Cody James, Oxbow Saddle Representative; Chris Neal,
event producer of Rising Star Calf Roper; Austin Hurlburt, Rising Star Champion of 2011,
and Mark Holder, event producer of Rising Star Calf Roping.
Cowboys and cowgirls and their families gathered in Duncan, Oklahoma for one of the premier events in rodeo, the Rising Stars Calf Roping Competition. The event took place at Stephens County Fair and Expo Center, November 24-28th. This year the four day event marks the 10th anniversary of the calf roping event geared to ropers who are seeking some of the best prizes and big cash payouts in their sport.
Chris Neal, producer/organizer of Rising Stars said “It’s pretty prestigious and has grown into the largest youth calf roping event in the world. To be a producer and a part of it is a good feeling,” he said. Traveling from 19 states and Canada this year, competitors hall from Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and other locals.
“We have grown every year for 10 years straight, we’ve never not grown,” Neal pointed out.”There are over 700 competitors this year.” In the youth division there are three age groups, 12 and under, 13 to 15, and 16 to 19. Additionally, the top 81 adult male ropers in the world standings division come and compete on Thanksgiving Day only.
Among the major names appearing are Fred Whitfield, Blair Burk, Monte Lewis, Ryan Jarrett and Jerome Schneeberger,all multi-time World Champions.
Austin Hurlburt, 12 year old son of Brent and Twyla Hurlburt of Norfolk, NE, completed in the Rising Stars Calf roping Competition over the weekend. The seventh grader from St. John’s Lutheran School in Battle Creek, Nebraska won the 12 and under division, crowning him the Champion of the event.
“I met so many neat people, from so many states,” Austin said, “we were all their for the same reason, to rope and have some fun,” he states. “Winning the saddle and a rope, and money, was pretty cool, but getting a piggin’ string presented to me by Fred Whitfield, now that was awesome.”
Austin was first in the first round and 2nd in the third round, so that put him in first place in the average, going into the short go, with the top 12 ropers. “All I wanted to do was catch in this round,” Austin said, “my horse did great out of the box, I caught the calf, and flanked him good, but when I was wrapping the legs my string came off, I had to restring, and I tied him tight and raised my hands, it was over.” Austin continues by saying “It was dead silence for a while, while they figured the times, and then the guy says, “The Nebraska Cowboy is the Champion, I was happy.”
There were 80 competitors in Austins age group to start the competition, which was then cut to the top 12 in the championship run. “All of us caught in the final round, now that was some good roping”, Austin commits, “the competition was tough, it was a great experience.”
Austin is the grandson of Tim and Diana Hurlburt of Burwell, NE and Janice Hitz of Battle Creeek, NE, Twyla graduated from Battle Creek High School and Brent graduated from Burwell Jr.-Sr. High School.