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Letcher cousins rope way to National Junior High Finals Rodeo

LETCHER -- It was an "awesome" feeling when Tater Moody and Cayden Slykhuis found out they were advancing to nationals.

The sixth-graders, who reside in Letcher and attend school at Sanborn Central, took fourth in team roping at the South Dakota Junior High State Finals to qualify for the National Junior High Finals Rodeo, which is Sunday through June 28 in Des Moines, Iowa.

"I think it will be a really good experience for them," Robin Moody, Tater's mother, said, adding the two are cousins. "The hard work paid off and there are a lot of things they'll get to experience together."

Junior high rodeo consists of kids grades six through eight, so this will be the first national rodeo for Tater Moody and Slykhuis.

Moody said the pair practiced about two times per week together leading up to the state finals, which was May 25-26 in Belle Fourche.

"We practice close to four days a week now to get ready," he said. "We want to be consistent."

The pair has roped alongside each other for four to five years, which has helped them be successful, said Sklykuis.

"Our grandpa (Terry Moody) has always taught us how to rope and we've been doing it for quite a few years now," he said, adding he and Moody's first run is Tuesday. "It runs in the family and it's really fun to do."

The NJFHR, the world's largest junior high rodeo, features about 1,000 contestants from 42 states, five Canadian provinces and Australia. In addition to competing for more than $75,000 in prizes, the contestants will also be vying for more than $100,000 in college scholarships and the chance to be named national champion.

To earn a championship, contestants must finish in the top 20 based on their combined times/scores in the first two rounds to advance to the final round on June 28. National champions will then be determined by their three-round combined times/scores.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.