High Schoolers Brave Dangers at Rodeo State Finals

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COLUMBIA - High schoolers from all across the state gathered in Columbia on Friday to participate in the Missouri High School Rodeo State Championships at the Central Missouri Events Center, Boone County Fairgrounds.

The young riders climb on the saddle and try to stay there as long as they can while their horses run at high speeds. The riders wear minimal safety equipment, usually just a protective vest and some protective wrapping around their arms. 

Over the past two decades, some competitions have required riders to wear protective vests in an effort to keep competitors more safe.

According to an ESPN article, researcher Dale Butterwick found from 1989 to 2009, there were 49 catastrophic rodeo injuries, 21 of which were fatal. 

Parents and spectators at the Missouri High School Rodeo State Championships watched nervously on Friday evening, hoping for a smooth competition.

"You get a little nervous since they are traveling so fast right now, and the horses can either not move in the direction you are hoping, or if you do slip or slide off, you can get hung up in the stirrup. The horse wouldn't intentionally hurt you, but you can still get injured," Amy Miken, a mother of four competitors, said.  

She said her kids have had injury scares in the past but are lucky they weren't serious. 

"We had one bad injury this year that we walked away from. One bad fall, just a severely bruised arm, but it could have been a head, neck or back," Miken said.

The winners will be announced on Saturday, and the top four riders in each event will travel to Rock Springs, Wyoming for the High School National Championships from July 13-19. 

(Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the misspelling of severely.)