Joe Bertus, Chesney Nagel are two of 54 South Dakotans qualified for NHSFRAVON — A pair of local riders will take on the best in high school rodeo next week in Wyoming and hope to draw on prior performances for a strong run on the big stage.
By: Marcus Traxler, The Daily Republic
AVON — A pair of local riders will take on the best in high school rodeo next week in Wyoming and hope to draw on prior performances for a strong run on the big stage.
Joe Bertus, of Avon, and Chesney Nagel, of Springfield, will compete next week in the National High School Finals Rodeo July 15-21 in Rock Springs, Wyo. More than 1,500 competitors from 41 states will take part in the 13 performances spread out over a week’s span. The week’s top cowboys and cowgirls will qualify for the short-go at 7 p.m. July 21.
Both are making return trips to nationals. Nagel qualified this year after competing in goat tying a year ago. She’ll compete in barrel racing with her horse of two-and-a-half years, Scout. Bertus will make his third trip to nationals, competing in bull riding all three times.
According to the unofficial draw, Nagel will participate in the barrel racing events Monday morning and Friday night; Bertus will make his two preliminary performances Monday night and Friday morning.
Bertus, 18, recently graduated from Avon High School and this will be his final chance to score highly at the national finals.
“The first year I didn’t do very well at all and last year, I missed the short run by four or five spots,” he said. He secured the fourth and final spot in the bull riding competition with 39 points.
Bertus will have two runs during the week and if the average of the scores puts him in the top 15, he’ll qualify for the short-go July 21. He said nerves were a primary reason for his low scores in his first two national appearances.
“We used to have a bunch of calves around our place when we were younger and my older brother and I started riding those around. We got involved with 4-H rodeos and that’s turned into high school and amateur rodeo,” he said.
Bertus first hopped on a bull at age 4 and started competing at age 8. He gets his practice near Geddes and Springfield.
Nagel has grown up around the world of rodeo, with her parents Blane and Cindy and her four siblings getting plenty of practice at the arena on their ranch near Springfield.
“My dad was in rodeos when he was younger and it’s been in our family forever,” she said, adding there has never been any doubt in her mind about performing in rodeos. “I always knew I was going to do it.”
Nagel’s level of success this year came somewhat as a surprise. She had qualified for nationals before in goat tying. Nagel entered the state rodeo with 24 points in both goat roping and barrel racing. A less than stellar opening run in the goat tying competition left her out of the running and Nagel turned her attention to the barrels.
“I was just able to focus my attention on that one event and I was able to stay in the moment,” she said. “I didn’t really imagine making it in barrels,” she said.
Nagel qualified for nationals with 46 points accumulated over the season. Finishing third in the state this year, she is one of five South Dakota cowgirls qualified in the event. In all, 54 people from South Dakota have qualified for the national finals.
Both competitors have been busy but in their own separate ways.
Bertus has been hitting every rodeo event he can find over the last two months. He’s had one every weekend since the middle of May. In fact, he stopped in Wall Friday night to take part in a bull riding event before making the nine-hour trip to the national finals.
“By the end of the weekend, it’s good to get some rest, but I’m usually ready to go,” he said about the wear and tear of the weekly performances.
Nagel has logged a lot of miles in the last week. She was in Florida as part of an AAU basketball tournament with the Dakota Blue Devils out of Sioux Falls from July 5-12. She kept her bags packed and left with her family for western Wyoming Friday for this week’s competition.
“I’ve been busy but it’s been in a good way,” Nagel said.
Nagel and Bertus know each other from the events and from attending Avon High School together. Both will take the experience from prior appearances to Wyoming.
“I’m kind of excited,” she said. “In goat tying, a lot of your success depends on the draw, and if you get a nasty goat, you could be in trouble. In barrel racing, you know what your horse does and how it will react and that can be helpful when you get into a big competition.”
“Don’t be nervous,” Bertus said. “I’m just going to have fun and make the most of my final trip out there.”