Pole bending’s best
Sulphur’s Gunter brings home second national title
Sulphur High junior Brooklyn Gunter and her horse Blaze finally worked all the kinks out.
After some rough times since knocking two poles down at last year’s National High School Finals Rodeo, Gunter made three perfect runs over the last week to win her second pole bending national championship in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
“It feels really good,” Gunter said. “It was a little tougher than the other year, so the fact that we came out on top means a lot.”
Gunter won her first title as a freshman in 2016 with an aggregate time of 59.544 seconds and winning all three rounds. This time she won the first-go round with a time of 20.142 but took second in the second-go round (19.952), giving her just a .295 second lead over 2017 runner up Shay Hough (Gillette, Wy.).
“I was nervous,” Gunter said. “‘I knew I need to make a clean, fast run.”
To add to the pressure of a national championship on the line, a dust storm rolled through just prior to her short-go run on Saturday.
“Before my run, I was just thinking I needed to keep my head down because if my hat falls off before the gate then it would be plus-five (seconds),” Gunter said. “Before I ran it stopped and it was good.”
Gunter tripped the timer in 20.008 seconds, but her title was not secure yet. Hough had yet to make her run, but she ended up knocking down a pole, incurring a five-second penalty and giving Gunter her second NHSFR title in three years.
Gunter finished with an aggregate time of 60.102 seconds while runner up Maci Zimmerman (New Ross, Indiana) was .438 seconds behind at 60.54. Hough finished 17th and 2017 champ Mikayla Joh Almond (Olin, North Carolina) placed seventh.
“I feels great and I feel like we are getting back to where we need to be,” Gunter said.
Gunter sees a third national championship on the horizon, but she will have to contend with younger sister Gabby next season. The younger Gunter, who missed half the 2018 season with a broken arm, ended her older sister’s two-year reign at the International Youth Finals Rodeo earlier this month and broke her aggregate record for the event with a three-round time of 59.06 seconds.
“I really think I can (win it again),” Gunter said. “Me and my horse are finally getting over the rough patch.
“I think everything can just go uphill from here. We have been talking about it. Next year is going to be tough.”
Five other cowgirls and cowboys placed in the top-20 in their respective events to lead Louisiana to a third-place team finish.
Welsh cowboy Coy Hebert placed third in saddle bronc riding with 201 points over three rides, including a 73 point ride in the first-go round. Team team roping, Britt Buller (Kinder) and Clay McDaniel (Deville) were in second head into the short-go round, but finished fourth with a time of 23.97 seconds on three head.
Abigail James (Rosepine) was sixth heading into the final round, but finished 17th in breakaway roping after a no-time in the short-go round. Allison Melsheimer (Dry Creek) placed 11th in girls cutting with a three round score of 429.5 and two-time Louisiana state goat tying champion Kaylee Cormier (Iowa) placed 15th with an aggregate time of 27.3 seconds.
‘It feels really good. It was a little tougher than the other year, so the fact that we came out on top means a lot.’
Sulphur High junior
Sulphur’s Brooklyn Gunter was the fastest in pole bending (20.217 seconds) Tuesday night during the first performace of the first go round at the Louisiana High School Finals Rodeo. (Rodrick Anderson/American Press)