Related Story

COLUMBIA -  The Missouri High School Rodeo Association kicked off its annual state finals Wednesday evening at the Boone County Fairgrounds.

MHSR devoted the first evening of the multi-day event to a barrel race benefit for the victims of the Joplin tornado. Wednesday night's race cost $20 per entry and $5 to warm up before the race. Ninety-eight people entered from across the state to participate in the benefit. About 60 percent of the proceeds will go to the Red Cross and Salvation Army in Joplin, with the other 40 percent going to the winner of the race, this season's MHSR Student President Bailey Conner said.

Conner said the total amount of money raised won't be calculated until late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning. Using the MHSR state finals as a way to raise money for charity is fairly common, she said.

While the tornado did not personally affect Conner, she said one regular competitor lost the roof to his home in the disaster.

"Even if we weren't there, we all share a connection to the disaster in some way," she said.

The state finals will continue with the first two rounds of competition Thursday and Friday evenings at 6 p.m. The events include bareback riding, breakaway roping, goat tying and calf roping among others. The top 12 finishers from those two rounds will go on to compete Saturday at 6 p.m. The awards ceremony will take place Sunday at 9 a.m.

Competitors who place in the top four will get an opportunity to participate in the 2011 National High School Rodeo finals in July in Wyoming.