Cole Churchill is riding high these days after conquering the provincial and national rodeo events this past year. He is now saddling up for today’s start of the National High School Finals Rodeo in Rock Springs, Wyo.
“I’m feeling pretty good in the arena this year,” said Churchill.
The NHSFR is the world’s largest high school rodeo, featuring more than 1,500 cowboys and cowgirls from North America and Australia.
“I’ll be down there for saddle bronc riding and tie down roping. I am also a steer wrestler and I do the team roping, just not at this rodeo,” said Churchill.
The 5-foot-11 Pleasant Valley grad lives in Westwold, where he trains in a small rodeo arena on his ranch.
He is able to practise the roping events there, but doesn’t have the horses to practise saddle bronc riding.
“It’s not something I can practise at home. I’ll go down there, find out what horse I’m riding and see how it goes,” said Churchill.
Ozzie Leaf has been involved with the Falkand Stampede for more than 50 years. As past president and current advertisement chairman, he has seen Churchill ride for many years.
“He seems to be a natural at saddle bronc riding. He has the smarts and the timing for tie down roping and team roping,” said Leaf.
It’s that fearlessness that earned Churchill an invite to the NHSFR after finishing in the top four of the B.C. High School Rodeo this past year.
He won the BCHSR boys south division with 249 points after eight events.
Churchill captured the all around championship at the Canadian High School Finals Rodeo last July in Nanton, Alta. He finished second in steer wrestling with a combined time of 35.5 seconds, second in boys cutting and fourth in tie down roping with a combined time of 45.3 seconds.
“I try and stay focused before my ride. I get my mind right and everything takes care of itself,” said Churchill.
The blonde-haired, soft spoken cowboy will make the two-day drive to Rock Springs for the third year in a row. His best finish came two years ago in the steer wrestling where he placed ninth.
“We went down there and I wasn’t expecting much. But he ended up finishing ninth, it made me open my eyes like, wow, he has a chance to make it in this,” said his father Jason Churchill.
The rodeo bloodlines are thick in the Churchill family. Cole has been around the rodeo ever since he can remember.
“I probably started around four years old. My family has always been involved in the rodeo, so I guess I was born into it,” said Churchill.
Added Cole’s father, “he’s already a better cowboy than I ever was.”
Cole’s grandfather is Mr. Rodeo, Merv Churchill. Merv was inducted into the Canadian Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2013 for his many years of organizing the Falkland Stampede.
Cole’s cousin, Clayton Moore, is dominating the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association.
Moore is fresh off being crowned the Canadian champion in steer wrestling.
Moore of Pouce Coupe, B.C., closed out his Canadian Finals Rodeo run with a 4.4 in the final round to clinch his first Canadian title.
Churchill spends time with Moore at his ranch in Dawson Creek. Hanging around with the pro is starting to rub off on Churchill.
“I’d like to turn pro one day. I just want to continue competing as long as I can,” said Churchill.
The Falkland and Calgary Stampedes are both on the young man’s radar one day.
After the NHSFR, Churchill will head down to Western Oklahoma State College with a few of his horses on a rodeo scholarship. Churchill wants to be an electrical engineer.