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CHHS’s Patrick Smith will compete

in the world’s largest rodeo

By JAINE TREADWELL

Features Editor

June 22, 2000 10 PM

They call him "Cowboy" and Patrick Smith considers it a compliment.

If anyone has earned the right to be called "Cowboy," it’s the rising Charles Henderson High School senior.

Patrick has earned a position on the Alabama state high school rodeo team and will compete at the 52nd Annual National High School Finals Rodeo (NHSFR) in Springfield, Ill. July 24 – 30 in the bareback competition.

Patrick recently finished in first place in the Alabama State High School Rodeo Finals in Montgomery. The Alabama rodeo team will be made up of the top four finishers in each of the nine rodeo events.

They will compete for more than $100,000 in prizes and $150,000 in college scholarships and the chance to be named the National High School Rodeo Champion in their event. More than 1,500 contestants from 38 states and four Canadian Provinces will compete in the world’s largest rodeo.

The numbers are enough to set any young competitor back on his or her heels and, if the numbers, aren’t overwhelming the level of talent is.

Patrick knows because he’s been there.

Last July, he earned a position on the team with a fourth place finish in the state finals and competed in the NHSFR held in Wyoming. For Patrick, it was a wakeup call.

"I got blown away," he said, with a smile. "I didn’t know what to

expect out there. It’s the biggest rodeo in the world and the best high school competition in the world and the best animals. The broncos were better than anything I’d ever seen or even thought about. I got blown out on my first ride. The next time, I knew a little more what to expect and I came close to making a ride on him."

Patrick said the bucking broncos in local rodeos give a good bucking but nothing to compare with the kick of the broncos at nationals.

"It just blew my mind," he said, shaking his head at the memory.

This year, he will be more experienced and better prepared both physically and mentally.

"Last year was the first year I had competed in the high school rodeo association and I didn’t have that much experience," Patrick said. "This year, I’ve competed more and practiced more and worked out more. So, I feel like the experience will help me and I’m physically stronger and I’m also more focused mentally. The first place finish at the state finals did a lot for my confidence."

Up until the state finals, Patrick had not been satisfied with his performance this season. But at the finals, "something clicked."

"All of a sudden, everything just seemed to fall in place," he said. "Now, I know I can get myself mentally prepared to compete. You have to be focused or you can’t make the ride."

The "ride" is eight seconds and it will take the "ride," near-perfect technique and a good draw to bring home a championship.

"A lot depends on the luck of the draw," Patrick said. "If you get a bronc that will give you a good ride and demonstrate good technique, then you have a chance. But no matter how good your technique, if the bronc doesn’t give you the ride, it’s all over for you. You can ride the fire out of him and not get a good score."

Patrick is hoping for luck in the draw but that’s where luck ends at the NHSFR. From there on, it’s up

to the skill of the rider.

There’s nothing Patrick would like better than for the "Cowboy" to come home wearing the title NHSRF Bareback Champion.

"The competition is going to be tough, especially from riders from the West," he said. "I’d like to finish in the top but, the good thing is I have another year to compete in the high school rodeo association, so, maybe this won’t be my last chance in the national finals."

Patrick’s immediate goal is to have a good ride in Springfield. His long range goal is to earn a rodeo scholarship to a college "anywhere."

"I’d like to go to college nearby but I’d go anywhere," he said. "You just don’t know how much I want to be on a college rodeo team. I really want that."

After that, he will see where the "buck" lands.