Petersen took his rodeo game to another level during the third week in July in Lincoln, Nebraska.
By JOE KUSEK
September 2, 2021
Sam Petersen isn’t much for long answers.
He listens to the question, pauses, then politely offers his reply.
So when asked about his rodeo season, Petersen didn’t hesitate.
“Yeah, it’s been going really good,” said the Helena teenager.
Along with establishing himself as one of the state’s next generation of top bareback riders, Petersen took his rodeo game to another level during the third week in July in Lincoln, Nebraska.
There, the Helena Capital senior won the National High School Finals Rodeo all-around cowboy title.
Petersen finished second in both the final bareback and steer wrestling standings.
Petersen delivered clutch performances in both events in the final round. He put together a solid 79.5 point ride in bareback riding and followed it with a time of 4.85 seconds in steer wrestling.
He entered the final round second in the bareback standings and seventh for steer wrestling.
“I never paid attention to the standings,” said Petersen. “I just had to go out and do my job. I just had to ride good and have a good bulldogging run and see where it put me at the end.
“When the called out my name (for all-around winner), I was pretty excited to say the least.”
Petersen in the first high school all-around national champion from Montana since Ron Sanford won in 1961 and is the fifth overall, joining Billy Brown (1960), Denny Wall (1960) and Jess Langston (1957).
But those who have been watching the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour this summer have already seen Petersen post winning rides.
Before the high school finals, he had had already won bareback titles at Gardiner, Big Timber and East Helena, along with placing second at Wilsall.
“I’ve been drawing good horses and riding well,” said Petersen. “I’ve improved quite a bit from last year.
“My goal at the start of this year was to win as much as I can and see where it puts me into the Finals. And then go win the Finals.”
He credits the Northern Rodeo Association for sharpening his competitive edge.
“It pushes you to be the best every time out,” Petersen said. “You’re competing with some stiff competition every weekend. For sure, you have to be ready, you have to perform well.
“I’ve always been competitive and I try to keep that mindset.
Entering the final weekend of the regular season, Petersen is fourth in the bareback standings, just $2,007 behind leader Brice Patterson of Bozeman.
The Mountain Health Care Co-op Tour will finish the summer at Hamilton (Sept. 3-4) and Hamilton (Sept. 5-6).
In August, Petersen won at Twin Bridges, was second and Darby and Boulder and third at Deer Lodge.
“There is something about riding a bareback horse,” he said. “I love the thrill … I’m an adrenaline junkie.”
He also tied for second in steer wrestling at Deer Lodge.
“I don’t have much time,” Petersen said of competing in the two events. “I take off my tape, toss my stuff in my riggin’ bag and run to the other end of the arena. I don’t have time to get nervous.”
His father Pete Peterson, won back-to-back NRA steer wrestling titles in 1999-2000.
However, Petersen’s biggest fan is right next to him in the arena.
“My mom hazes for me,” said Petersen of his mother Tara. “She started hazing for me at a high school rodeo in Lewistown. It helps having your mom there. You never have to worry about finding a hazer at the rodeo.”
“She sees things I did wrong and offers constructive criticism. Mom, she’s been late a couple of times. Stuff happens. We can’t stay mad at each other too long, I guess,” he finished with a soft chuckle.
Petersen, who also competes in wrestling, has already started the high school rodeo season.
“I just want to keep going and get ready for the NRA Finals,” he said.
And now every time he enters the arena, Petersen carries an additional title:
“It took a while to get used to it,” he said.
There are close races and there are close races.
Those near the top of the standings are secure in qualifying for the NRA/Northern Women’s Rodeo Association Finals, Oct. 28-30 in Kalispell.
The top 10 in each event qualify.
Those floating around the bottom of the top 10 have two opportunities remaining to reach the Finals.
An average of $213 separates 11thand 10th place in the race for 11 year-end championships.
Just 51 cents (read that again, 51 cents) separates No. 10 Trace Fuller of Bozeman and No. 11 Brandon Yerian of Corvallis in the team roping heeling standings.
Milee Dailey of Pray clings to the No. 10 spot in breakaway roping by $19 over Choteau’s Molly Salmond.
Boulder was very good to the Beattie boys of Helena.
Logan Beattie won the steer wrestling to take over the year-end standings lead.
Brother Gavin, roping with Dillon Johnson of Belt, won the team roping to move into second place in the standings for team roping heelers.
Wibaux featured competitors from four different states – Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and North Dakota. Among those were barrel racer Jessica Routier of Buffalo, South Dakota who placed second in barrel racing. Routier is a three-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier who finished second in the world standing in 2018.