Riley Rustad and Kassie Jo Kautzman are at different points in their respective high school rodeo careers.
Rustad, an 18-year-old from Kindred, N.D., is in the tail end of his high school days in rodeo before he departs for Texas.
Kautzman, a 16-year-old from Walcott, N.D., is in her second year of competing in the high school division and is quickly becoming a successful performer in many events including breakaway roping, which is her favorite.
Rustad and Kautzman were among the several hundred riders competing in the Sheyenne Red River Rodeo this weekend at Schollander Pavilion on the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo, The Forum reported (http://bit.ly/ZLCUiN ).
The event ran Friday through Sunday. It marked the 38th year for the high school division championships and the 8th year for the junior high division championships.
"The family atmosphere in rodeo is just awesome," said Rustad, who comes from a family full of current and former rodeo competitors. "It is always a fun place to be."
Rustad, a senior at Kindred High School, also participated in football in the fall playing on both the offensive and defensive line. He is the president of Kindred's chapter of Future Farmers of America and is set to attend Northeast Texas Community College in Mt. Pleasant, Texas this fall.
Rustad plans to study Agriculture Business and compete on the school's rodeo team.
His competitive rodeo career started when he was in seventh grade and has been something he has spent a lot of time at over the last six years.
"I put 14 to 15 hours into rodeo a week," said Rustad, whose favorite event is cow cutting. "I probably practice two to three hours a night during the week."
Kautzman, a sophomore at Kindred High School, has been riding since she was an infant and, like Rustad, enjoys the camaraderie aspect to the rodeo.
"There are so many people you can meet," Kautzman said. "It is all one big family. We are all one big rodeo family and everyone gets along."
Kautzman won the high school girls breakaway roping event last year at the SRR championships.
"It's just my passion," Kautzman said of breakaway roping.
The transition to the high school division for Kautzman has meant competing against top riders at every rodeo.
"It's hard when you don't do as well as you had hoped," Kautzman said. "You get down on yourself, but you just have to keep your head up and keep trying."
Each event winner at the SRR rodeo wins a belt buckle trophy, which the Rustad family is not short on. Rustad won the SRR calf roping event last year and grew up admiring his father, Kelly Rustad, and his rodeo trophies.
Page 2 of 2 - Among those trophies is a belt buckle from Kelly's high school senior year.
"His graduating year was 1979, so I got to see a couple of his old buckles," Riley Rustad said. "They are pretty cool. Those buckles are fun to get."