Explorebigsky.com staff writer

GALLUP, N.M. – Big Sky cowboy James Ramirez, 13, battled through a rough State Rodeo Finals to earn a place on the Montana National Team headed to Gallup, N.M, at the end of June.

James, who will go into his freshman year at Lone Peak High School this fall, competes in five rodeo events: tie down roping, goat tying, chute dogging, team roping and ribbon roping.

Every year, Montana takes its top four contestants in each event – barrel racing, pole bending, boys and girls breakaway, team roping, girls and boys goat tying, bull riding, ribbon roping and tie down roping – to nationals. Ramirez scored fourth in goat tying at states, just squeaking into the national competition.

James and his teammates from across Montana competed against elite rodeo competitors from the U.S., Canada and Australia during the seven-day rodeo. There were roughly 200 kids per event, all competing for a world title. The top 10 in every event are awarded prizes.

Gallup has hosted the National Junior High Rodeo Finals for the past nine years. There were three arenas going at a time, with morning and evening performances.

James had to make two good runs to qualify for the short go, or top 20, on Saturday night. He ended up 17th going into Saturday night’s final performance.

“He looked at me and said, ‘I am going for it, Dad. I have nothing to lose, the worst I can do is 20th in the world,’” recalls Ramirez’s father Ed Ramirez.

With the start in reverse for the short go, James was the fourth man out of the gate. His run, solid at 10 seconds, held the winning goat tie time until three nine-second runs pushed him to fourth place in the short go. Ramirez then moved from 17th to seventh in the world standings.

“He used his head throughout the week to stay in the average and was allowed another chance in the short go,” Ed said.

“I am so happy I earned the opportunity to go to nationals,” James said. “It is an honor to represent Montana and my school at such an elite event. I also enjoyed meeting kids from different places. The experience was worth all the hard work. I hope to go again in high school.”