Many High School Rodeo Athletes Top Their Class | New

Several Nebraska high school rodeo athletes have given some really big speeches over the past few weeks.

Six high school seniors spoke in front of their classmates, family and friends as they finished their high school careers as valedictorians or salutatorians.

Mekenna Fisher, Tucker Gillespie, Abby Lawton, Emma Ohm, Jett Sjeklocha and Shayda Vaughn finished top of their classes.

Fisher, a graduate of Sutherland High School, was valedictorian. Competing in barrel racing, pole bending, roping breakaway, tying and goat cutting, she qualified for the Nebraska State High School Finals Rodeo during of the past three years and the National High School Finals Rodeo.

In high school, she participated in FFA, FBLA, FCA, speech, drama, quiz bowl, student council, band and choir and was a member of the National Honor Society.

Fisher participated in the Rural Law Opportunity Program (RLOP) and will receive tuition and boarding at Chadron State College this fall and guaranteed admission to the University of Nebraska School of Law.

She is the daughter of Levi and Keri Fisher.

Gillespie, a graduate of McCook High School, is one of six seniors with a 4.0 GPA. (McCook High recognizes top GPAs and does not award valedictorian or salutatorian titles.) In high school, he was involved in FFA, Speech, Mock Trial, Thespian, and Interact, a Rotary junior program, and Youth Change Reaction, a group that focuses on community improvement projects. He also ran cross-country.

A queen cow horse competitor, Gillespie will attend Texas A&M and double major in animal science and neuroscience. He has qualified for the Nebraska State High School Finals for the past two years as well as the National High School Finals.

He is the son of Joe and Julie Gillespie.

Overton High School’s 2022 salutatorian is Abby Lawton. A pole bender, barrel runner and goat tyer, Lawton finished the year with a 4.0 GPA. She has participated in the FFA, FCCLA, Leadership Academy, National Honor Society, and Student Council.

This fall, Lawton will attend the University of South Dakota at Vermillion to major in medical biology. She hopes to attend medical school and become a neurosurgeon. The cowgirl has qualified for the state high school finals three times and the national championships twice.

She is the daughter of John and Lorna Lawton.

Emma Ohm, Arthur, Neb., a breakaway roper, goat rider, and team roper, is Arthur County High School’s valedictorian in 2022, with a 4.05 GPA.

The cowgirl competed in basketball and volleyball and was a member of her school’s FFA chapter, student council, band, National Honor Society, and president of the Neb. State High School Rodeo Association.

This fall, she will attend Black Hills State University in Spearfish, South Dakota, on a rodeo scholarship. She will study psychology because of her interest in the mental side of sports competition, especially rodeo.

She competed in state high school rodeo finals for three years and nationals for three years.

She is the daughter of Jason and Kaycee Ohm.

Jett Sjeklocha is the 2022 Saluter for Hayes Center High School.

A bull rider, steer wrestler and team stringer, in high school he played football and golf and was a member of the FFA, student council and the National Honor Society.

This fall, he will attend Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte on a rodeo scholarship. He will move towards a welding diploma. He qualified for three state high school finals rodeos and the national high school finals rodeo in 2021.

He is the son of Rusty Sjeklocha and Susan Sjeklocha.

Shayda Vaughn finished her high school career as a salutatorian for Hershey High School with a 4.0 GPA.

A competitor in the breakaway roping and team roping, she played volleyball and basketball in high school and was on the FBLA, TeamMates, student council, 4-H, and the National Honor Society.

She has competed in the state high school finals for the past three years.

This fall, Vaughn will attend the University of Nebraska-Kearney and could work toward an elementary education degree.

She is the daughter of Tim and Celie Vaughn.

Just like in other high school sports, rodeo athletes must maintain their grades to be eligible for rodeo. They often receive rodeo scholarships that help pay for tuition.

The Nebraska High School Finals Rodeo will wrap up the state season Friday through Sunday at the Adams County Fairgrounds in Hastings, 947 S. Baltimore Ave. Rodeo performances start at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, with the short ride on Sunday at 1 p.m.

The cuthorse competitions are at 7 a.m. Friday and Saturday with the finals at 8 a.m. Sunday. Cow Reined Horse takes place at 10 am Friday and Saturday.

The top four state finishers from each event advance to the National High School Finals Rodeo, to be held in Gillette, Wyoming, July 17-23.

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